SACRAMENTO -- If you don’t play defense, you are going to lose games. It’s not some mystery, and the Kings know it.
The Los Angeles Clippers ran an offensive clinic Thursday night. Despite playing on the second night of a back-to-back, they looked like the fresher team coming out of the gate.
Sacramento had a rare three-day break in the schedule. The Kings took a day off Monday and then had two days to prepare for a Los Angeles team that currently leads the Western Conference at 15-6.
“Ran into a very good, experienced, hard-playing, very physical team playing well — playing with a lot of confidence,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. “They play at the pace they want to play at. They get to spots and get shots that they want to get.”
Instead of coming out and controlling the tempo, Sacramento looked lost and overmatched as the Clippers came away with the 133-121 victory at Golden 1 Center.
“We’re terrible one-on-one, plain and simple, we’re terrible at one-on-one,” Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein said. “We’ve got to start guarding one-on-one, keeping men in front of us or we’re going to continue to get picked apart.”
It was the theme of the locker room, and rightly so. The Kings allowed the Clippers to shoot 55.6 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from behind the arc.
“For us this year, it’s been defense,” kings guard De’Aaron Fox said. “That’s the end of the court that we have to be able to get better at. If we do, I think it will be a surge in the team. When our defense is up, our offense picks up even more.”
Los Angeles scored 42 points in the first quarter to set the tempo. The Clippers led by as many as 18 in the opening period, but Sacramento appeared to make adjustments. Whatever those adjustments were, they didn’t carry over after the break.
Tobias Harris led the way for the Clippers with 28 points on 11-of-17 shooting. Reserve big man Montrezl Harrell beat up the Kings inside for 24 points on 8-of-10 shooting to go with six rebounds.
With the loss, the Kings dropped to 10-11 on the season. This is their first three-game losing streak of the season. They have a tall task ahead of them when a tough Pacers team rolls into town Saturday night. Like the Clippers, Indiana is a well-coached, veteran team capable of doing major damage on the offensive end.
Injury to insult
In addition to losing the game, the Kings lost rookie Marvin Bagley, who went down in the early fourth quarter with back tightness. He finished the night with 18 points and 10 rebounds in 27 minutes of action, but he was in noticeable pain in the locker room following the game.
The Kings plan to take Friday off, but that might not be enough time for Bagley to heal up. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the 19-year-old miss Saturday’s game against Indiana.