Game 79 Recap – Kings 116, Clippers 94

Well, the Kings certainly have figured out how to beat the Clippers. Over the last 10 games they’ve won and scored 100 points or more twice. Both of those games were against the Clippers.

To say the Clippers still have their head in this season would be the equivalent of saying Tyreke Evans still has some work to do before he can stake a claim to the Rookie of the Year award. The Clippers clearly don’t care about this season. They aren’t even in full tank mode. Tanking would be a compliment of the way they’re playing. They simply don’t seem to care. Other than Chris Kaman, I didn’t see a lot of effort out there aside from the occasional DeAndre Jordan explosion or Eric Gordon drive.

And sometimes, that’s exactly what you need for a Kings team like this one. They’re young and they’re hungry. They’re trying to figure out how to win and win consistently but they’ve been mired in an offensive funk. Thank higher being for the Clippers because they will right any ship that’s having trouble finding their course. This game got a lot of the Kings players back into a nice rhythm. With Dallas, Houston and the Lakers waiting for them to end the season, that was a must if the Kings want to finish the campaign with some momentum for next year.

- This is the Jason Thompson we saw in November when it wasn’t crazy to think if he could challenge for a spot on the All-Star team in just his second season. Back then, JT was confident, succinct with his movements and outworking nearly every opponent put in front of him. He lost that way for a few months. He wouldn’t utilize his natural gifts and abilities on the court and it hurt his game. When it hurt his game, he didn’t look confident in anything he was trying to accomplish. But now that all seems to be changing.

Over his last eight games, JT seems to have figured out whatever was ailing him. During this stretch, he’s averaging 14.5 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.5 offensive rebounds and just over three fouls per game. He’s also shooting 53.4% from the field with a lot of those coming on the mid-range jumper. Against the Clippers, he once again proved to me why I think his future in this league is at the center position. He did a great job of pulling Chris Kaman and DeAndre Jordan away from the basket. This allowed him plenty of room to operate. He can pick you apart that way with the mid-range jumper or drive past his opponent in an isolation set. He did a great job of getting to the baseline early in his drives, which put the defender on his heels. Once he did that, he could either turn the corner on the baseline or make a move back to the middle. When he learns to do this without taking that extra dribble to gather himself and/or getting too low with his body, he’ll be a handful to stop on a nightly basis.

The 22 points on 20 shots isn’t great but he did hit half of his attempts. You’d like to see him get to the free throw line more (just three attempts) but overall it’s hard to nitpick at this performance, especially when you look at the rebounding totals of eight offensive and 15 total. At halftime, Jason had nine rebounds and the entire Clippers team had just 13. He struggled against Kaman in the post a little and that’s where you wonder if he needs to seriously hit the weights. If he’s going to be a versatile switch between the power forward and center positions, he probably needs to add about 10 to 15 pounds of muscle in the off-season to be able to hold his own better in the paint. Overall, just a fantastic game from JT and one that seems to be more of the trend lately, rather than just an outlier.

- I loved the production from the Kings bench in this game. Even though Sean May didn’t get his usual pick-and-pop jumper to fall, the Kings still received fantastic efforts from Omri Casspi, Francisco Garcia and Donté Greene. Nobody came out and set the world on fire but these three guys did a great job of not letting the Clippers get a lot of momentum going other than one stretch in the third quarter. All three players did a good job of keeping the flow of the offense moving, attacking the basket when they needed to and knocking down shots. But more importantly, they continued some good defensive effort on the wings. The Clippers have a few wing players that can get very hot and make life a nightmare for their opponents. The Kings, especially these three guys, kept that from being a problem.

And Omri threw a great lob late in the game to Donté that led to the highlight package:

- During the third quarter, the Clippers made a healthy comeback by implementing a zone defense that left the Kings a little befuddled but not much. While the zone appears to have been the reason for the Kings faltering for quite a stretch of basketball, I really don’t think it was THAT big of a deal. The Kings didn’t get denied good looks during this zone and I think that’s why the Clippers didn’t use it exclusively once they got the game close. Sacramento still got good looks at the basket; they just didn’t always fall.

The comeback mainly happened because Chris Kaman decided to either increase his team’s chances of keeping this thing close or beef up his own numbers. There was no answer for him in the third period. He knocked down jumpers and utilized a bevy of post moves to get good looks against the Kings. If anything, Chris Kaman’s aggressiveness on both ends is the cause for the Clippers comeback. The zone was just a different look that made the Kings adjust.

- I almost forgot; there was this Tyreke Evans guy that was pretty good during the game. Baron Davis is no slouch of a player when he wants to be. Apparently, he went on about wanting to lead the Clippers next season. It’s probably just an empty promise like when people say, “I’m really going to enjoy this BBQ this weekend because on Monday I’m starting a diet and my training at the gym.” I never understood that mentality. If you want to change the way your health is why do you wait until after the weekend? Why not just make the change then and now? That’s what I got from Baron Davis after reading the quotes and then watching him in this game. If you want to change the culture of Clippers basketball, why not change it against the Kings? That’s a very beatable team with a motivated Baron Davis. Instead, it seemed like the rest of the season was the weekend BBQ and next season was the gym and diet health plan.

But I don’t blame him for not putting forth the effort against the Kings Thursday night. With the way Tyreke was going, only Nicolas Batum or Shane Battier could have prevented him from doing the things he was doing. Half of his made baskets came on jumpers. He stated earlier that he was going to add a mid-range jumper to his game. If this was a preview of coming attractions, sign me up. There is simply no stopping Reke when his jumper is falling. You can’t give him the jumper because he’s making it. And you can’t play up to prevent the jumper because that’s like leaving Randy Moss single covered on his own side of the field. All you can do with Tyreke is hope the jumper clangs off the iron or you have quick help defense with a longer reach around the basket than him.

Based on StR’s Reke-O-Meter, he now needs just 51 points in the final three games to finish with the fourth rookie season of 20 points, five rebounds and five assists in NBA history. He already wrapped up the assists days ago and grabbed the one rebound he needed against the Clippers to put the rebounding side of it to rest. Now he has to average 17 points per game in the final three games to get the points.

One final thing of note is to recognize the defense he played on Baron Davis. Baron had a decent first half against Tyreke and the Kings guards – 11 points and five assists. In 15 second half minutes, Baron was scoreless with five more assists. Evans did a good job of keeping Baron in front of him and challenging jumpers. Tyreke struggles by helping too much on defense and then being slow to get back to his shooter. But when he’s matched up one-on-one with a guy, I like his chances of keeping his man from getting into an offensive rhythm.

Oh yeah, don’t forget that he can make a highlight reel too:

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