LA Clippers: What to watch for as Kings come to Staples Center

LA Clippers Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
LA Clippers Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

The LA Clippers will host the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night, looking to hold their spot at second in the Western Conference.

Thursday night will mark the first NBA game at Staples Center since the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant. The game originally scheduled for Tuesday night was postponed as both LA teams needed more time to grieve and re-center themselves before being able to focus on basketball again. The game against Sacramento will be intense in terms of emotion for the players of both the Kings and LA Clippers as well as fans of LA in general.

One major thing it seems the world will be looking for in this game isn’t something on the court but above it. The Clippers have notoriously covered the Lakers banners and retired numbers during their home games under the Doc Rivers regime. After the horrific accident that took Kobe Bryant’s life, there is much speculation as to whether or not the Clippers will continue to cover Bryant’s two retired numbers that hang over Staples Center.

This will be the second meeting between the Clippers and the Kings; the first one being on New Year’s Eve. LA handled the Kings handily defeating them 105-87. The Clippers’ performance was dominating from beginning to end allowing only two Kings to score in double digits, and holding their young star-point guard D’Aaron Fox to only 9 points.

Heading into round two of the inner-division match up the Clippers will look to replicate the performance from round one. This will be the Clippers’ first home game since hitting the road on January 18 for the annual “Grammys Road Trip” in which the team faired a 4-1 record.

The team announced Wednesday evening that Paul George and Patrick Beverley were listed as PROBABLE for the game, and likely a game-time decision for Thursday. George and Beverley have missed nine and three consecutive games respectively.

Despite the team having a great record over the road trip, a possible return for two of the team’s best defenders will be a treat. If both players are active this could be the first time since Christmas we’ve seen the main rotation players all healthy.

There will likely be a lot of game-planning for Sacramento’s shooting guard Buddy Hield, who has been a thorn in LA’s side on more than one occasion. The sharp-shooting guard once led an 18-point comeback against Doc Rivers’ Clippers with five minutes left in the game.

Hield has recently started to come off the bench for the Kings in a move that was heavily questioned by many as head coach Luke Walton looked to shake things up in the team’s rotations. The move has seemed to work as he has averaged 25.3 points on over 50% shooting from deep in his last three games.

Big-man Dwayne Dedmon has worked his way back into the starting lineup for Sac but should be a fairly easy assignment for Ivica Zubac. Both starting centers play limited minutes in their roles- Sacramento’s answer for Montrezl Harrell should be interesting to see.

Kawhi Leonard will look to continue his streak of scoring at least thirty points a game that has reached eight consecutive games now for the All-Star. Leonard is also coming off his first career triple-double on the road trip in Miami less than a week ago.

Sacramento will be entering the game at Staples Center on the second night of a back to back. These scenarios are usually looked at as a scheduled loss for the teams on the second night, but the Kings are young and always capable of punching above their heads.

Next. Harkless changes jersey number in honor of Kobe. dark

The Clippers should be able to handle the Kings easily despite what will be a heavy-hearted evening as basketball life resumes for so many players, coaches, and staff in LA, still processing the loss of a friend, competitor, teammate, mentor, and figure of LA basketball.