Kings running towards a freight train?

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Kings running towards a freight train?

LOS ANGELES (AP) - These are heady days for the long-suffering Los Angeles Clippers. They've tied a franchise record with an 11-game winning streak and at 19-6 are tied for the second-best record in the NBA.

Still, Chris Paul wants to keep the fans' euphoria in check, saying, "We're not trying to peak now. We're trying to build something."

While the Lakers, their Staples Center co-tenants, continue to stumble with a losing record and an early-season coaching change, the Clippers are flying high led by All-Stars Paul and Blake Griffin. Bolstered by one of the league's deepest benches, which was remade in the offseason, Paul and Griffin haven't been seeing much playing time in the fourth quarter.

That's when they become cheerleaders for free agent additions Jamal Crawford and former Laker Matt Barnes, along with Eric Bledsoe, Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf, the latter two being the other former Lakers on the team.

"They have their identity and it starts on defense," Griffin said.

The Clippers have shown they're capable of winning without big numbers from Griffin. They are 13-3 in games when he scores less than 20 points. He's averaging 18.0 points and 8.6 rebounds.

Veterans Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill, another free-agent pickup, have been vocal with their leadership and support while rehabbing injuries.

"We're all playing for one goal and not individual accolades," Paul said.

The Pacific Division leading-Clippers have taken advantage of a soft stretch in their schedule to win those 11 straight games, with victories over some of the league's worst teams, including New Orleans, Charlotte, Toronto, Detroit, Phoenix and Sacramento, their next opponent on Friday night.

"Eleven in a row. Not bad, is it?" owner Donald Sterling said before leading a locker room cheer after a 93-77 victory against the Hornets on Wednesday night.

Before the streak began, they knocked off some of the league's best. They have wins over Memphis, the Lakers, San Antonio (twice), Atlanta and defending NBA champion Miami.

"They have a chance to win it all," Toronto coach Dwane Casey said.

Even the team's veteran announcer, Ralph Lawler, is on his own winning streak. His "Lawler's Law," which dictates that the team reaching 100 points first will win, is 19-0 this season.

Paul and Griffin have clearly clicked on and off the court in their second season together. They frequently kid each other during their dual postgame interview sessions held in a separate room next to the locker room.

Paul regularly rallies his teammates for outings on the road, including dinners and trips to a mall or movie theater. The team took in the new Tom Cruise flick "Jack Reacher" on their last trip, a 4-0 venture as part of the current winning streak.

There's a family feeling in the locker room, too, with Paul's 3-year-old son and Barnes' twins among the kids cracking up the players after games. Big man DeAndre Jordan has a drawing of himself done by Caron Butler's 8-year-old daughter taped to his locker.

"I've never been on a team this close," said Crawford, averaging 16.6 points off the bench. "Everybody here is pulling for each other, whether it's your night or somebody else's night. Everybody has a role to play."

Willie Green, who has started 22 games in place of Billups, sat when the veteran guard recently returned for three games before getting hurt again.

"He didn't complain and he didn't play a minute," Paul said, giving an example of the attitude permeating the team.

The last time this franchise won 11 in a row was as the Buffalo Braves in 1974-75.

"Most of the guys weren't even born then," coach Vinny Del Negro points out. "We want to make our own history and that's only going to happen if we have the right mentality."

Del Negro preaches defense first and the Clippers have bought into it.

"We can score on any given night," Paul said. "As long as we defend, we give ourselves opportunities to win."

They should have a great opportunity to beat the Kings, who have won only one of their 11 road games. That includes a 116-81 drubbing at the hands of the Clippers on Dec. 1.

Sacramento (8-17) did manage to end a five-game losing streak with a 131-127 home win over Golden State on Wednesday, getting 24 points from DeMarcus Cousins and 23 from Aaron Brooks to help hold off a late Warriors rally.

"We showed a little bit of character and fired back," Brooks said.

Tyreke Evans missed his second straight game with a knee problem and his status is unclear for Friday.

NBA Gameday: Kings close homestand against George, Pacers

NBA Gameday: Kings close homestand against George, Pacers

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings look to salvage the final game of their season-long seven game homestand Wednesday night when they host the Indiana Pacers at Golden 1 Center. The Kings are 1-5 over the six home games after dropping Sunday’s battle with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Sacramento has fallen behind by 14 points or more in each of their six home games, including a 17-point deficit against the Thunder. Coach Dave Joerger has gone with the same starting lineup four straight, featuring Darren Collison, Garrett Temple, Rudy Gay, Anthony Tolliver and DeMarcus Cousins. There is no word if he will stick with the same group against Indiana, but Ty Lawson is questionable with an ankle sprain and Omri Casspi is out with calf injury, leaving the Kings shorthanded.

The Pacers have won six of their last seven coming into Wednesday night. They are fresh off a 98-95 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans. Paul George led the way with 19 points and six assists while point guard Jeff Teague barely missed a triple-double, finishing the night with 16 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds in the win.

OPENING LINE

Pacers by 1

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Rudy Gay vs. Paul George -- After missing 10-of-11 games with a hip injury, Gay has bounced back for Sacramento. The 30-year-old forward has posted 19.4 points, seven rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game in his last five contests since returning to action. George is a three-time All-Star that presents matchup issues for most teams. He’s the engine that makes the Pacers go. If they can take away George, the Kings have a chance to pick up a big win before heading out for eight straight on the road.

WHERE THEY STAND

Kings: 16-24, third place in Pacific

Pacers: 21-19, second place in Central

INJURY REPORT

Kings: F Omri Casspi (left calf strain) out, PG Ty Lawson (left ankle sprain) out.

Pacers: PG Rodney Stuckey (hamstring) out.

SERIES HISTORY

The Kings swept the season series 2-0 last year and have a four-game win streak against the Pacers. Indiana holds a 44-39 lead over the Kings all-time and a 33-26 advantage during the Sacramento-era.

QUOTE

“He’s very unique - a special talent in our league. A point center, being able to handle the ball, bring the ball up, shoot 3’s. He’s a load in the paint, in the pick-and-roll, he can do anything and everything on the court. It’s a special cover, we’ll be locked in, we’ll mix up some things to guard him, but it’s going to be a tough night for us.” -Paul George on facing DeMarcus Cousins

Kings forward Omri Casspi to miss 1-2 weeks due to injury

Kings forward Omri Casspi to miss 1-2 weeks due to injury

SACRAMENTO, CA -- An MRI taken Monday night at Kaiser Permanente in Sacramento revealed that forward Omri Casspi suffered a strain of the right plantaris tendon during practice on Monday.

He is expected to miss up to two weeks of action.  

The eight-year NBA veteran is averaging 5.9 points (.453 FG%, .379 3pt%, .571 FT%), 4.1 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 18 minutes per contest this season. 

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