Programming note: Kings-Clippers coverage starts Sunday at 12 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California with Kings Pregame Live (territorial restrictions apply)
After Friday night’s 103-94 win over the Trail Blazers, Kings coach Michael Malone called it, “an unbelievable effort by us against a very good team.”
To duplicate a winning result on the road versus a legitimate NBA title contender in Doc Rivers and the Clippers (2-0), here’s what’s necessary for Sacramento (1-1) to thrive:
The first quarter versus the Clippers will be crucial for Sacramento.
While the Kings have a fourth quarter goal of limiting opponents to 20 points or less, it needs to be implemented in the first quarter at the Staples Center.
Sacramento does not want to be in comeback mode early on the road versus a team in the Clippers that knows how to finish.
Taking care of the ball:
The Kings did a fine job versus Portland in Friday’s win with only 10 turnovers and must sustain playing with poise.
If Sacramento turns the ball over, especially break out turnovers, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and company will exploit it and “Lob City” will reign.
Blake Griffin is averaging 31 points in the Clippers first two games, while DeMarcus Cousins averaging 18.5 points and 10 rebounds so far this season.
Cousins must be on the floor for major minutes for the Kings.
Avoiding careless fouls and the corresponding foul trouble that could render him to the sidelines and maintaining his composure is critical for the Kings.
Darren Collison and Ryan Hollins return to face their former squad in the Clippers. Both were acquired as free agents this offseason and Collison led the Clippers to a 26-9 record last season in games he started subbing for an injured Chris Paul.
Collison has been solid in two games as the Kings starting point guard – averaging 15 points, eight assists, six rebounds, four steals with only four turnovers. Hollins has seen limited action.
After a quiet exhibition season and opener, Rudy Gay’s 40-point effort in Friday night’s victory led Malone to say to the team, “Meet your new teammate Rudy Gay.”
Social media was raging with rumors that a Sacramento run at Klay Thompson ultimately led to the Warriors locking him up with a four-year max entension on Friday.
No doubt Pete D’Alessandro is eager and perhaps desperate to upgrade the Kings so this scuttlebutt will continue.
The dilemma the Kings brass face: with Cousins and Gay off the table, are there desirable pieces on the roster to deal that will return talent that will make a material impact in the win column?
Kings roster rumor and innuendo will be the norm rather than the exception as Sacramento tries to improve upon back-to-back 28 win seasons.
Additionally, NBA veteran scribe Peter Vecsey tweeted via @petervecsey1:
“Should Kings stumble early & often, I predict MMalone will b 1st coaching casualty. There was summer talk owner thought about replacing him”
No source has confirmed to CSN California any sniff of a Malone demise. However, the reality is, if you don’t produce you’re out.
Malone is well respected throughout the league and most importantly has the respect of the locker room as they navigate this brutal early schedule that now has the Kings on the road for six of their next seven games.