by Jonathan Santiago & James Ham

Isaiah Thomas gave the Los Angeles Clippers all that they could handle tonight.  In his new role off the bench, the 24-year-old point guard led his team with 29 points, but it wasn’t enough as the Kings fell 113-110 Friday night at Sleep Train Arena.

“It’s just a feeling,” Thomas said after tonight’s game of playing aggressively.  “Every basketball player feels it.  I made a couple shots.  I got on a roll a little bit.  My teammates kept finding me and I was just aggressive.  I was trying to make plays and I saw a few plays I could make and I did.”

The Kings got hot in the third, where they outscored the Clippers 32-25 and had momentum entering the final frame.  Thomas took over in the last period, scoring nine of his almost 30 points and gave Sacramento a running chance for the upset.  Unfortunately, poor execution and avoidable fouls cost Sacramento the game.

Tonight’s matchup was often times chippy and contentious.  The Clippers played the role of irritant, drawing two technical fouls from Thomas and teammate DeMarcus Cousins in the process.

“We knew this was going to be a game like this,” Clippers forward Blake Griffin told reporters after the game.  “The Kings are not a team that you can look past anymore.  It was not an easy victory at all by any means.  They’re playing good basketball.  They got the players.  DeMarcus is playing at a high level.  Isaiah is playing at a high level.  We knew that it was going to be tough.”

The Kings move to 1-1 on the season and 1-1 at home.  They travel west to play the Golden State Warriors, their neighbors in the bay, tomorrow night at Oracle Arena.

Notes and Analysis

  • The Kings vs. Clippers matchup is turning into a battle between Isaiah Thomas and Chris Paul.  Thomas scored a game-high 29 points off the Kings’ bench while shooting 9-for-13 from the field.  The former Washington Husky added four assists and hit all three of his 3-point shots in 31 minutes of action.  Chris Paul led the way for the Clippers, scoring 26 points and handing out 10 assists.
  • DeMarcus Cousins lit up another Western Conference frontline tonight, dropping in a 24-point, 10-rebound double-double in the loss.  Cousins made quick work out of defensive-minded center DeAndre Jordan, drawing five fouls on the Clippers big and limiting him to just eight rebounds in 31 minutes.
  • There was a Marcus Thornton sighting this evening.  After a 1-for-6 shooting performance in the opener, Thornton scored 17 points on 6-for-12 shooting and 3-for-7 from long range.  The Kings need a consistent effort out of Thornton night in and night out.
  • Jason Thompson played well tonight, giving Malone a big 11-point, seven-rebound performance in 30 minutes off the bench.  Thompson added two blocks before fouling out late in the fourth.  Thompson is still adjusting to coming off the bench, but he is showing signs of figuring it out.
  • John Salmons laid an egg tonight for the Kings.  The veteran wing shot just 1-for-7 from the field and finished with two points in 29 minutes.  Travis Outlaw was no better off the bench.  In 18 minutes, Outlaw scored two points on 1-for-4 shooting.
  • Blake Griffin did a nice job of stuffing the stat sheet tonight for coach Doc Rivers.  The All-Star forward scored 20 points, grabbed a game-high 17 rebounds and added six assists in 41 minutes.  He was a difference-maker in this one.
  • Patrick Patterson‘s struggles continued tonight.  After scoring just three points in 27 minutes in the opener, he followed it with a six-point, three-rebound game against the Clippers.
  • Stat of the Night: Paul recorded 11 steals in the Clippers’ first two games, but had zero tonight.  Point guards Isaiah Thomas and Greivis Vasquez combined for just one turnover for the Kings.

Quote of the Game

Michael Malone on the third quarter:

“If we come out and we don’t execute, then they didn’t feel us at all to start the third quarter. They scored so easily on us, uncontested jumpshot after uncontested jumpshot. We got back in the game when we finally started making people feel us out there. We put bodies on them, made them take contested shots as opposed to wide open looks. Again, that’s a team that a lot of people picked that could make the NBA Finals. If you’re going to try and guard those guys with no contact and not making them feel you, it could be a long night.”

Video shot and edited by Kimani David.