Clippers vs Kings, Pt. Deuce: 3 Things to Watch


Here are three things to look at when the Clippers take on the Sacramento Kings in Los Angeles; in the season opener, Blake Griffin‘s 33-point, 8-rebound performance lead Los Angeles to a victory over it’s Pacific division “rivals”.

1 – Slowing Down Boogie

There are two ways to look at DeMarcus Cousins‘ 32 point performance: 1) the top-2 center was just being his usual dominant self, taking advantage of the Clippers frontcourt in the process or 2) there’s no way Cousins repeats the making of four three’s on five attempts.

Odds are part of Clippers-Kings will feature a performance that fall somewhere in the middle, but one thing remains the same from game 1 to game 2 of this regular season series: the Clippers need to find out some way to stop him.

Ideally, this is a job for expected Defensive Player of the Year candidate and max contract center DeAndre Jordan, but we saw in the opener Cousins is fully capable of getting the big man in foul trouble, leaving the vastly-undersized Josh Smith to try and stop Cousins, a method that didn’t work, and played a part in the Kings rumbling back in the fourth quarter before eventually failing to complete the comeback for a win.

Maybe Cole Aldrich gets a go if Jordan is forced to sit with foul trouble or Doc Rivers adjusts the defense to get the ball out of Cousins’ hands in the post. Whatever, the Clippers need to think of something, because if they can phase Boogie out of the game the odds of the other Kings players beating the Clippers is slim to none.

2 – Can the bench get going at home?

Given the personnel, it should be no surprise the Clippers’ reserves have faired well on defense in the games played on the season. Austin Rivers is a sneaky good defender, Wes Johnson is better suited to match up with backup wings than starters, and small-ball center Josh Smith is doing a Draymond Green-esque effort at defending the paint.

But the offense? It just hasn’t matched the effort, as NBA Stats says the lineup of Smith-Pierce-Rivers-Johnson-Crawford has posted an offensive rating of 97.7 in 20 minutes of playing time.

It’s gonna take improvement from Pierce, Crawford, Rivers, and Smith to create an uptick on offense, with Johnson doing 3-and-D things in between. Rivers had a solid outing against the Mavericks, Pierce a solid against Sacramento in the opener, and Crawford hitting double digit points in both games. Now’s a question of whether they can click on all cylinders at the same time, which’ll help out the starters 100 percent, and avoid the near meltdown seen in game 1 vs. Sacramento.

3 – Speaking of getting it going, what about Lance?

Sometimes being invisible is a good thing, especially in the case of Lance Stephenson. While it’s an indicator the play hasn’t entered “good or great” territory, it’s a sign he’s not been awful like last year’s version in Charlotte.

Through two games, Stephenson has amassed 10 points on 40% shooting (33% from three), 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, and 2 turnovers. He’s allowed Chris Paul to play off ball in the offense, a luxury unattainable in the past as Matt Barnes never served as a pick-and-roll playmaker.

The good news is the Clippers starting unit has managed to maintain its dominance with Born Ready in the lineup, but at some point Lance is going to have to make himself visible and make an impact on the game.  The added benefit of having an additional ball handler in the playmaker has provided Chris Paul the luxury of playing off-ball in certain moments, setting back screens for a streaking J.J. Redick or settling on the block to post up the few guards in the NBA who dwarf him. But can Lance for defenses to see him as a threat when the ball is in his hands? As a threat when standing on the perimeter and being the beneficiary of a pass from Paul or Blake Griffin? Or punish teams for shading toward Griffin in the pick-and-roll? It’s those things we’re waiting on, and maybe they’ll take time as he learns to choose his spots in this offense.

Would still be nice to see flashes of “old Lance” and make himself a player against the Kings.