Kings-Clippers complete home-and-home in L.A.

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Kings-Clippers complete home-and-home in L.A.

(AP) -- With his team fighting for playoff position, Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin doesn't want to get caught up in a war of words with Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins.

That won't stop the Kings' mercurial big man from sharing his thoughts on this growing rivalry.

Griffin and Cousins meet for the second time in three days Saturday night when this home-and-home set concludes in Los Angeles.

Even if they can't run down the Los Angeles Lakers for the Pacific Division title, the Clippers (33-22) sit fourth in the Western Conference and are in good position to secure the franchise's first postseason berth since 2005-06.

Griffin deserves as much credit as anyone for the Clippers' 2011-12 success, ranking among the league leaders in double-doubles (34) and being just one of a handful of players in the NBA averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Known as much for his vicious dunks as anything else, the two-time All-Star showed off his outside shot in Thursday's 93-85 victory at Sacramento (19-36), hitting a pair of 22-foot jumpers in the final few minutes as Los Angeles bounced back from Wednesday's 113-108 loss to the Lakers for its seventh win in eight games.

Griffin, though, spent plenty of time battling Cousins down low, with the two second-year big men trading elbows and shoves - along with some words.

"It wasn't me going at anybody. I don't want to get that started," said Griffin, who has 14 points, nine boards and three assists in each of the two wins against Sacramento this season. "That's something that will hopefully go away for him. When guys get frustrated, that's what happens."

Cousins, one shy of his 13th technical and a one-game suspension, wasn't surprised by that response.

"That's what Blake is going to say because he's in L.A., where actors belong," said Cousins, who finished with eight points and three rebounds in 18 foul-plagued minutes. "And he's an actor."

Cousins, fined 25,000 by the NBA on Friday for publicly criticizing officials after Thursday's loss, can expect to see a few of those sitting courtside when these teams meet at Staples Center for the only time in 2011-12.

Los Angeles, winner of seven of eight at home, has lost just twice in the Kings' last eight visits.

Sacramento owns a conference-worst 5-22 road record, but after defeating Utah 104-103 on March 30, the team has a chance to win two straight away from home for the first time since a three-game run March 23-27, 2011.

The Kings, who open a stretch of four of five away from home, could be without Marcus Thornton for a third straight game (bruised right calf) and John Salmons, who has been sidelined for six with a sore right hip.

Thornton has averaged 23.5 points in two games against Los Angeles with Sacramento.

Clippers sixth man Mo Williams (sprained left big toe) could return for the first time in nine games. If Williams can't go, Eric Bledsoe, who had 13 points on Thursday, should see plenty of time backing up Chris Paul and Randy Foye, the latter the team leader with 36 points versus Sacramento this season after scoring 20 in the latest matchup.

The Clippers haven't swept a season series against the Kings since winning all five meetings in 1985-86.

Young Kings' inexperience rears ugly head in loss to Jazz

Young Kings' inexperience rears ugly head in loss to Jazz

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings showed their age Wednesday night at Golden 1 Center. They couldn’t buy a basket early. They could do no wrong in the second and third quarters. And when the chips were down, they couldn’t stop a charging Utah Jazz team from pulling away for the 112-82 blowout.

Utah led by as many as 20 in the first quarter and it looked like it was going to be a long night. The Kings shot just 31.6 percent in the game’s first 12 minutes and they allowed the Jazz to knock down 5-of-11 3-pointers early.

“We started off slow and in a hole and tried to come back,” Willie Cauley-Stein said.

The Jazz pushed the lead to 24 in the opening minutes of the second quarter and then Ben McLemore happened. The fourth-year guard went off for 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the second as the Kings cut Utah’s lead to just seven at the intermission.

“It’s nice to see him back in there and getting rhythm and feeling good about himself,” Dave Joerger said of McLemore. “He is able at his size to get off of people that are holding. With his athleticism, he can be an effective cutter and he can be an effective pin down player.”

The 24-year-old wing finished the night with 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting, but he was one of just three Kings players to notch double-figure scoring as the ball movement dried up for long stretches.

Utah made adjustments in the second half to slow McLemore and the Kings did a poor job of responding. They over dribbled the ball, leading to just 14 assists on the night.

The Jazz on the other hand looked like a finely oiled machine. With big man Rudy Gobert anchoring the post, they made cuts at the rim and found open shooters all around the perimeter.  

“They hit shots, a lot of shots, a lot of threes,” Willie Cauley-Stein said. “That breaks the game wide open when you’re hitting threes and a lot of stuff is going in.”

Sharpshooter Rodney Hood dropped in 5-of-5 from long range, scoring 18 points in just 24 minutes of play. Gordon Hayward knocked down 3-of-5 from deep for a team-high 20 points. Overall, Utah outscored the Kings 39-6 from 3-point range.

Despite the rough start and the barrage of 3-point makes by the Jazz, Sacramento cut Utah’s lead to just two midway through the third quarter. And then the playoff bound Jazz dropped a 52-24 run on Sacramento to finish the night off.

Joerger allowed his core of young players plenty of time on the floor. Skal Labissiere played a team-high 33 minutes in the loss, coming away with nine points and seven rebounds.  

“I’m definitely learning a lot,” Labissiere said. “It’s the best way to learn to be out there against guys like that. Whenever I’m out there, I’m always learning something. I just try to give my best.”

Rookie Georgios Papagiannis added eight points and three rebounds in 20 minutes and Buddy Hield struggled for one of the few times in a Kings uniform, scoring just two points on 1-for-7 shooting.

It’s a process. With the playoff chatter over and done with, the Kings are bound to have a few more night’s like this in the final seven games of the season as they transition to a full youth movement.

 

Instant Replay: Kings fight back, but succumb to Jazz

Instant Replay: Kings fight back, but succumb to Jazz

BOX SCORE

SACRAMENTO -- After winning two straight, the Sacramento Kings came out flat and the Utah Jazz made them pay. The Jazz quieted the crowd early, pushing their lead to 24 points in the second quarter, but the Kings bounced back to make it a game. In the end, Utah had too much firepower, coming away with the 112-82 victory.

All-Star Gordon Hayward used his height advantage at the wing to punish the Kings. Hayward scored 20 points on 8-for-14 shooting and added seven rebounds in the win.

Rudy Gobert pounded the Kings in the paint, finishing the night with 16 points and 15 rebounds.  

Rodney Hood knocked down 5-for-5 from behind the arc on his way to 17 points. Shelvin Mack shot 5-of-8 from the field for 14 points and Joe Ingles finished with 12 points and five assists off Quin Snyder’s bench.

There is no quit in Ben McLemore. The fourth-year guard has an uncertain in Sacramento after this season, so he made sure to put on a show for anyone who might be interested in his services. McLemore dropped in 17 of his 22 points in a wild first half run that got Sacramento back into the game.

Darren Collison was one of the few Kings to find success early as the Jazz built their big lead. The veteran point  guard finished the night with 12 points and one assist.

Willie Cauley-Stein didn’t back down from Gobert. The second-year 7-footer managed to score seven points and grab a team-high eight rebounds in the loss.

Ty Lawson came off Dave Joerger’s bench to score 11 points and dish out three assists. Skal Labissiere shook of a slow start to score nine points and grab seven rebounds, while rookie Georgios Papagiannis chipped in eight points.

STANDOUT PERFORMER:
McLemore caught fire. He singlehandedly stopped the Kings from getting blown out in the first half with his 7-of-8 shooting performance before the intermission.

TURNING POINT:
Sacramento managed to make it a game in the third quarter, clawing all the way back to within one point. The Jazz responded to take a 78-67 lead into the fourth and then put the Kings away.

INJURY UPDATE:
Garrett Temple and Kosta Koufos sat for scheduled rest. Arron Afflalo missed the game due to a personal matter. Rookie Malachi Richardson is officially out for the season with a right hamstring thickness tear. Rudy Gay is out for the year with a torn left Achilles.

WHAT'S NEXT:
The Kings travel to New Orleans where they’ll face DeMarcus Cousins and the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday evening. They’ll fly to Minnesota following the game to play the Timberwolves as part of a back-to-back.