The LA Clippers got PG Chris Paul back, traveled to Sacramento, and came away with their 3rd consecutive win to begin the month of January and the year of 2017 in a 106-98 victory over the Kings.
Top Performer: Austin Rivers got the start at SF again, and he responded with a team-high 24 points while adding 6 rebounds. It’s the first time in Rivers’ five-year career that he has had back-to-back 20-point games, and 18 came in the 1st half, the most points Rivers has scored in a 1st half as a Clipper. Rivers made 4-of-7 from three, marking the 5th time this season he’s made at least 4 threes in a game. Rivers had 5 career games of 4+ threes in his first 4 seasons combined, and this was also his 5th 20-point game of the season, the most 20-point games in a season in his career.
X-Factor: As the game went along, LA got better shots. The Clippers made only 36.4 percent from the field in the 1st quarter, but bounced back in the 2nd quarter to make 46.4 percent from the field. LA was even better in the 2nd half, making 52.9 percent from the field while trying to hold on to a double-digit halftime lead.
Major Moment: For the 2nd game in a row, the Clippers had to dig themselves out of a double-digit deficit in the 1st half. The Kings had a 22-8 lead less than 8 minutes into the game, with Sacramento PF Rudy Gay outscoring the Clippers by himself with 9 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the field (LA started 3-of-13 from the field). But from 4 minutes left in the 1st quarter until just before Sacramento’s final possession of the 1st half, LA obliterated the Kings, outscoring them 45-17 over a nearly 16-minute stretch. Rivers dominated Sacramento during this stretch, making 6-of-9 from the field for 14 points while the Kings made only 6-of-27 from the field as a team (22.2 percent). Gay didn’t score again for the rest of the 1st half, missing his last 3 attempts from the field. Clippers SG J.J. Redick also added 3 threes of his own during this stretch, and LA never relinquished the lead in the 2nd half.
Key Lineup: It’s time to watch out for the 4-guards with DeAndre Jordan lineups. Doc Rivers only used Paul, Raymond Felton, Austin Rivers, Jamal Crawford, and Jordan for 2 minutes in the 2nd quarter, but that unit made 3 threes as part of a 9-0 run. More notably, that lineup forced Sacramento to shoot 0-for-5 from the field, so expect to see it again at some point. The lineup that hurt the Kings the most was their bench of SG Arron Afflalo, SF Garrett Temple, PF Anthony Tolliver, and C Kosta Koufos with starting PG Ty Lawson. That unit compiled a -52.0 net rating in 7 minutes, getting outscored 19-11 while shooting a miserable 3-of-13 from the field (23.1 percent).
The Definition: The return of Paul was nice, but the fact that he’s healthy is the best takeaway. Paul moved into 10th place on the all-time career assists rankings, passing 17-year veteran Rod Strickland, and he finished the game with 14 points (3-of-5 FGs), 6 rebounds, 12 assists, and 3 steals in 31:26.
“I don’t feel anything … came out unscathed,” Paul said after the game. “I’m excited about Sunday.”