Clippers hold off Kings after blowing big lead
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul didn’t let a slow start against the Sacramento Kings throw him off course.
A quick pep talk by coach Doc Rivers and some encouraging words from his teammates convinced Paul to keep jacking up shots until they started to fall.
Just like that, Paul’s sizzling start to the season rolled on.
Paul had 26 points and 10 assists for his third straight double-double, and the Clippers came back after blowing a 15-point lead in the second half to beat the Kings 110-101 on Friday night.
“I came out a little slow and tried to let the game develop, but I can’t be that way,” Paul said. “I have to be more aggressive. Once I got more aggressive, that opened up things for everybody.”
Blake Griffin added 20 points, 17 rebounds and six assists while reserve Jamal Crawford had 18 points for the Clippers, who have won two straight since a season-opening loss to the Lakers.
Six players scored in double figures for Los Angeles, which trailed 92-90 midway through the fourth quarter before going ahead for good on a 3-pointer by Paul. The Clippers’ point guard had nine points over the final 6 minutes, including four consecutive free throws to extend the lead to 108-101.
Paul got into it with Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins. The two exchanged words and had to be separated in the first quarter after it appeared Paul tried to push on Cousins’ face while the Kings’ center was on the ground.
Cousins later drew a technical in the fourth quarter after blocking a shot by Paul when he appeared to taunt the guard. Isaiah Thomas, who led the Kings with 29 points, was also hit with a technical foul while Los Angeles reserve Matt Barnes was called for a flagrant foul.
“It was a track meet and it was physical, too,” Rivers said. “It had a little bit of everything.”
The Clippers led most of the game and were ahead 66-51 early in the third quarter before the Kings made their best run of the night behind Thomas.
Thomas, Sacramento’s diminutive backup point guard, scored seven points including a driving layup as he crashed to the court. That helped the Kings trim the gap to single digits, and Travis Outlaw’s tip-in following Cousins’ missed 18-footer cut the Clippers’ lead to 79-77 heading into the fourth quarter.
“I love the fact that we got back in the game and we didn’t stop competing,” Sacramento coach Michael Malone said. “But you can’t beat a good team if you allow them to shoot 50 percent from the field and from the 3-point line.”
A driving layup by Thomas tied the game at 90-all, and Jason Thompson’s jumper gave the Kings their first lead since early in the first half.
It didn’t last long.
Paul scored five straight points and fed DeAndre Jordan with an alley-oop pass for a dunk that gave Los Angeles a 97-94 lead.
Cousins, who finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds, scored on a short hook to pull the Kings within 102-99 but Jared Dudley and Paul made two free throws apiece to help the Clippers seal the win.
“I’m one of those people that let my teammates get me going, and I need that,” said Paul, who shot 7 of 14 from the field. “Doc talks to me about it but it’s my teammates that help me.”
Los Angeles led comfortably until Sacramento’s push in the second half.
Barnes and J.J. Redick made consecutive 3s as part of a 12-0 run by the Clippers midway through the first quarter. The Kings pulled even at 22-all on two free throws from Thomas before Crawford made a runner in the lane to give Los Angeles the early lead.
Crawford scored six of the Clippers’ first nine points in the second quarter and Griffin added four on a driving layup and two free throws to help Los Angeles take a 41-31 lead.
The Kings shot just 38.1 percent in the first half but pulled within 52-45 on a free throw by Thomas with 21.5 seconds left. Paul answered with a 15-footer to extend the Clippers’ lead to nine at halftime.
Sacramento made it close in the second half but couldn’t close out after taking a lead with just over 6 minutes left.
“We have to get better on the defensive end,” Cousins said. “They got going, and instead of us stopping the bleeding we let them continue to do that. They didn’t beat us. We beat ourselves.”
NOTES: Paul is averaging 27.3 points through the first three games. … Crawford was 7 of 10 from the field. … Former NBA star and current Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson was among those seated courtside.
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