The LA Clippers dropped an important game against the Sacramento Kings that had major implications for the 3rd seed in the Western Conference.

Summary

How do you lose a game when you score 175 points? You allow your opponent to score 176. The Clippers and Kings put themselves in the record books on Friday when they combined for the second-highest scoring game in NBA history. Unfortunately for the Clippers, they came out on the wrong end of that.

There was a different vibe in The Crypt before the game started in anticipation of Russell Westbrook’s Clipper debut. That soon gave way to an incredible scoring quarter that saw both teams drop 40 points to begin the game.

The offensive onslaught by both teams seemed equal to the attention given to Westbrook’s first game. He was given a standing ovation when he was announced in player introductions, another ovation when he was shown on the jumbotron right before the opening tip, another eruption of cheers when he scored the Clippers first points of the game at the free-throw line and one final ovation when he fouled out. In short, Westbrook was stellar in his role aside from the fouls. He did not force much, he took shots within the offense, and he very clearly is the best playmaker on the team. He pushed the pace well, he found the cracks in the defense and he picked it apart with his passing.

One of the main takeaways from Westbrook’s presence was the ability of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to play off ball and get catch and shoot three-point opportunities. Most of Leonard’s early shots came off the catch from Westbrook passes and it got him into a rhythm that he kept up for most of the game on his way to dropping 44 points, one shy of his career-high.

Honestly, aside from the turnovers and inability to string together consistent defensive stops, Westbrook fouling out went a long way towards the Clippers losing the game.

After the game, Westbrook spoke about how he saw himself fitting in, in his first game.

“Just trying to find ways to be effective out on the floor. Whatever they ask of me, screening, rolling, ball-handling, whatever that may be. Cutting, just trying different things to impact the game, using my IQ to be able to make plays,” Westbrook said. “That’s what I bring to the game, my pace and speed. I want to be able to bring that to this team and bring it in a way where guys feel comfortable knowing that they run, they’re gonna get it. That’s my job, to find them in scoring position and make the game easier for them.”

As mentioned before, Westbrook fouling out ended up hurting the Clippers. They had given themselves a little momentum but without Westbrook’s ability to set players up for easy shots, the offense kind of went astray while defensive breakdowns continued to occur.

Aside from the ridiculous amount of turnovers the Clippers had, had they have strung together enough defensive stops, they might have won this game. The Kings are a high-powered offensive team that can put up a lot of points and like to get out and push the pace in transition. It’s that end of the floor that Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue believes they need to address.

“There’s a couple of things. I think transition defense is one, getting back and getting matched up,” Lue said. “And two, point of attack defense. One-on-one, early breakdowns when you have to overhelp and give up threes and layups and dunks. We’ve got to be better with that.”

Not only did the loss hurt the Clippers chances at overtaking the Kings for 3rd place in the West, it also ruined a near career game for Leonard. After he was able to establish a rhythm off catch and shoot situations, he hit the Kings with every bit of his offensive arsenal. That should be a welcoming sign for Clipper Nation. A healthy Leonard is without a doubt a top-5 player in the NBA.

Despite the loss and the potential playoff implications, Leonard was a little bit encouraged by some of the things he saw.

“It’s one game, I don’t think we’re gonna score 170 points on 60 percent all the time,” Leonard said. “Just the mentality that we have, the group that we have, that gives me confidence. We just got to keep buying in, we’ll see what happens, see if we can have some carry-over and see if we can have a good run.”

David Yapkowitz

David Yapkowitz

David is in his sixth season as credentialed media at Los Angeles Clippers games and second season covering the team for 213 Hoops. He also covers the game at the college and high school levels. When his professional basketball dreams did not materialize, he turned to the next best thing, writing about it.

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