Los Angeles Clippers at Sacramento Kings
Sleep Train Arena
April 17, 2013
7:30 p.m. PST
FOX Prime Ticket
3 Seed Western Conference Standings Check
Denver Nuggets, 56-25
L.A. Clippers, 55-26, 1 GB
Memphis Grizzlies, 55-26, 1 GB
Shouldn’t this be solved already? There’s one night left in the regular season and the Clippers can still finish third, fourth, or fifth in the West. Let’s go over this quickly: Every team in the NBA plays tonight so that, of course, includes both Denver and Memphis. The Nuggets have the Suns at home while the Grizzlies welcome in the Jazz. The Clippers’ magic number to clinch the fourth-best record in the West is 1, which means that if either Memphis loses or the Clips win, the Clippers clinch. In order for the Clippers to get the 3 seed, they need to beat the Kings and Denver needs to lose to Utah. The Clips would own the tie breaker over both Memphis and Denver because they won the division. Complicated enough? Good. Now onto 3-on-3:
1. Will Sleep Train Arena have a little extra energy with this game potentially being Sacramento’s last?
Patrick James, (@patrickmjames): You bet it will. The last time it seemed the Kings were playing their swan song — the 2011 season finale against the Lakers, with a potential move to Anaheim looming — fans came out in droves and emotions ran high. The team climbed back from a 20-point deficit to tie the game and force overtime. They lost, but went down swinging, loudly and proudly.
Jovan Buha, (@jovanbuha): Yes. I expect it to be an emotional game for the Kings, even if their players haven’t always shown consistent effort (and want it to be the offseason already). As such, it wouldn’t be a surprise if this game goes down to the wire.
Jacob Frankel, (@jacob_frankel): I’m expecting a very special atmosphere in Sleep Train to the Clippers disadvantage. I’m of the opinion that Sacramento will keep the Kings, but that won’t stop the Cowbells from ringing as loud as ever.
2. What’s the best way to attack the Kings’ weak defense?
James: Clearly Chris Paul has a tremendous advantage tonight over Isaiah Thomas (especially considering Tyreke Evans is out), but I love it when the Clippers attack the basket early, forcing DeMarcus Cousins to be a defender — help or otherwise. Foul trouble and frustration can totally neutralize Cousins (it’s happened before in this matchup).
Buha: What’s the best way to attack any defense? Ball movement and deception. As long as the Clippers’ offense doesn’t stagnate and resort to isolations and ball-watching, I think they’ll be fine.
Frankel: That’s like asking me what the best way to relax is. The mission of scoring will be accomplished either way. Often the best answer in these situations is to just go to the best player on the team and Chris Paul will certainly have a favorable matchup against Isaiah Thomas.
3. Do the Clips clinch home court tonight?
James: Look, both teams are playing for pride (the Clippers want to avenge their loss to the Kings from last month; the Kings to honor their fans and city), but the Clippers have so much more at stake (potential home court advantage). L.A. will come to play tonight. Let’s just hope they remember to guard Marcus Thornton and Toney Douglas, who shot a combined 9-for-15 from three last time.
Buha: Yes. Now will they clinch home court as the 3-seed or the 4-seed? That remains to be seen. I don’t think the Suns will beat the Nuggets on the road, but then again, I didn’t think they’d beat the Rockets either. The Clippers will most likely have a rematch with the Grizzlies awaiting them.
Frankel: They don’t. It will be pretty emotional in Sacramento and considering the type of energy that there has been in previous Kings’ big games, I can’t see them losing. In fact, I’m expecting Sacramento to blowout the Clippers.
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