The Los Angeles Clippers hope to make another productive trip to the capital of California when they visit the Sacramento Kings on Saturday night.
Few teams in NBA history have dominated a rivalry on the road to the extent to which the Clippers have handled the Kings in Sacramento. Los Angeles went almost nine years between losses at Sacramento before falling 104-99 last December.
Prior to that, the Clippers had won 15 straight road games over the Kings dating back to March 2013.
Unfazed by an unsuccessful trip north 18 days earlier, the Clippers returned to Sacramento later in December last year and got back on their winning ways with a 105-89 romp.
The Clippers got the 2022-23 season off to a winning start against the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night, pulling out a 103-97 victory in Kawhi Leonard’s return to the court.
Leonard contributed 14 points and seven rebounds to the win, coming off the bench for the first time since when he was with the San Antonio Spurs in 2013. He admitted afterward he knew it was coming.
“We did some simulations at practice,” Leonard said. “For me, I felt like this was the best way. One scenario with me starting, I would have been sitting like 35 minutes real time. That’s way too long. So I just thought this was the best situation.”
With Leonard leading the bench crew, the Clippers’ reserves accounted for 43 of the club’s 103 points and three of its six double-figure scorers against the Lakers. No lineup changes are expected for the Sacramento game.
Newcomer John Wall joined Leonard off the bench to start the opener and chipped in with 15 points and three assists.
Leonard hasn’t faced the Kings since a 113-110 home loss in February 2021.
The Kings opened with a 115-108 home loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night. De’Aaron Fox was the game’s leading scorer with 33 points.
Sacramento double-double machine Domantas Sabonis, fighting foul trouble, failed to double up against the Trail Blazers with just 13 points and four rebounds before fouling out. He later pointed a finger of blame at himself.
“We definitely should have won that game … Definitely have to be better, especially myself,” Sabonis said. “At the end of the game, we started making shots and we felt better about ourselves. I think we are going to be a lot better against the Clippers.”
Acquired in-season last February from the Indiana Pacers, Sabonis has never faced the Clippers as a member of the Kings. But he knows all too well the experience of losing to Los Angeles.
Despite recording a double-double in each game, his Pacers teams lost the last five times they faced the Clippers, including twice at home.
The Kings opened without prize rookie Keegan Murray, who was battling an illness. He returned to practice Thursday and likely will make his NBA debut against Los Angeles.
–Field Level Media