June 14, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Clippers have no answer for De’Aaron Fox in loss to Kings

Kawhi Leonard finished the Clippers’ first possession of Sunday’s third quarter with a baseline drive and a twisting layup. The second ended with an offensive rebound and a mismatch that saw guard Luke Kennard drive past Sacramento center Richaun Holmes for another layup.

Just 51 seconds into the second half, with his team’s three-point halftime lead now a one-point hole, Kings coach Luke Walton burned a timeout, having seen this scene before.

As the Clippers became this season’s best third-quarter team, no opponent bore the brunt of that efficiency more than the Kings, who in the third quarters of two previous losses to the Clippers this season had been outscored by 36 combined points.

“Those third quarters, part of it is the Clippers are maybe the best team in the NBA,” Walton said before tipoff Sunday inside Staples Center. “And then part of it for us is, we have to know that and we have to find a way to play better. Find a way to maintain that same type of effort that we are giving in the first two quarters.”

Message received.

This time, there was no third-quarter Clippers onslaught.

They had no fourth-quarter breakthrough, either.

Instead, the Clippers’ 113-110 loss to Sacramento saw the continuation of two trends and the end of another.

Kings guard De’Aaron Fox, whom Clippers coach Tyronn Lue called “probably the fastest guy in the league right now,” ripped through the defense for 36 points, including 12 in the final quarter, to extend his torrid offensive run.

His performance marked the fifth consecutive game an opposing point guard had scored at least 24 points against the Clippers, a run that underscores yet again the perimeter defense’s dependency on injured guard Patrick Beverley, who missed his eighth consecutive game Sunday because of a sore knee.

The Clippers (17-8) have now lost consecutive games for the first time this season.

Lou Williams scored a team-high 23 points off the bench as Clippers reserves outscored the starters, 57-53. Off to one of his slowest offensive starts this season, Leonard finished with 20 points after making nine of his 21 shots. Every Clippers starter registered a negative plus-minus, and it was apparent how much this offense missed the distribution and shot-making of the injured Paul George.

Down three with 17 seconds left, the Clippers found Nicolas Batum open in the right corner for what would have been a game-tying opportunity, but the ball rattled in and out before the rebound was collected by — who else? — Fox, who was everywhere in the final quarter. It was his assist to Richaun Holmes for a dunk with 31 seconds left that had created Sacramento’s three-point lead in the first place.

The victory capped an impressive two days for Sacramento (12-11), which was less than 24 hours removed from beating Denver.

The Clippers won Sunday’s third quarter, 29-25, by closing on a 16-6 run. But it was never as one-sided as either of the team’s other two games as Los Angeles shot 48% and the Kings 43% in the quarter.

After his baseline drive to open the frame, Leonard followed with another basket with eight minutes and five seconds left — then didn’t attempt another shot for nearly five minutes, a stretch that saw the Clippers trail by as many as nine points as Sacramento’s Buddy Hield — unchecked by the potential defense of George — became a one-man offense.