SACRAMENTO -- DeMarcus Cousins hates the Los Angeles Clippers. Hates them.
It’s a strong stance to take against an opponent, but it’s not hard to see why. The Clippers know how to get under your skin from the start of a game until it’s finished. And it doesn’t help that they are very good.
The Kings learned just how good they are during a wild third quarter that saw Chris Paul lead his team on a 20-0 run on the way to a 117-107 victory over Sacramento.
Paul, one of the best guards in the league, finished the night with a season-high 40 points on 13-of-20 shooting. Normally a pass-first guard, he got his own offense going early and then set up his teammates with a game-high 13 assists.
“It’s a lot more difficult, it’s not even what he does” Gay said of Paul’s big scoring night. “He’s more of a mobile point guard and he came out and added something else to his game today, which we couldn’t stop.”
Paul pulled up for what seemed like countless mid-range jumpers as he picked apart the Kings’ defensive scheme. When the Kings made any adjustment, he found players like Jeff Green or J.J. Redick for open looks.
“We just made it look way too easy for him,” Darren Collison said. “That can’t happen. He’s a great player for a reason. You’ve got to make it tough and I don’t think we did a good job of that.”
Cousins paced the Kings with 26 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists, but he struggled to keep his composure for most of the night as the Clippers needled the big man. He picked up a technical foul in fourth and even threw a ball off of Paul’s head and out of bounds during a bizarre moment down the stretch.
[WATCH: Cousins riffles ball at Chris Paul]
It wasn’t Cousins’ finest moment and he was very careful in his postgame comments.
“It’s very old,” Cousins said. “It’s tough enough winning a game in the NBA. It’s old. It’s played out.”
Rudy Gay added 23 points and Darren Collison had a solid 18-point, five-assist night filling in for the injured Rajon Rondo. Seth Curry brought a spark off the bench, finishing the night with a career-high 19 points.
The Kings fell to nine games under .500 with the loss and now have a losing record on their home floor. They have a lot of work to do if they hope to turn around a once promising season.
COOKING WITH CURRY
Yes, Seth Curry is still in the NBA.
Once a month or so, George Karl pulls the 25-year-old out of mothballs and gives him a real look. With Rajon Rondo ailing, Curry got the call and responded with a career-high 19 points in 26 minutes of action.
“There’s no question that I would check the video out and see what it says a little bit better,” Karl said following the loss. “Seth played very well, had some nice moments.”
Karl has boasted about Curry’s defensive skills in the past, and following the Clippers game, he once again propped up the seldom used guard.
“I think from my standpoint, he’s a good offensive player, but defensively I think he might have our most active hands, most alert activity on the court, from a defensive standpoint.”
So why isn’t Curry playing more? That is a question no one seems to be able to answer. Neither Ben McLemore or Marco Belinelli have been effective over the last month. But in the Kings’ last 18 games, Curry has 12 DNP-CD’s and he’s played just 25 total minutes over that stretch.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Kings crumble in third quarter vs Clippers]
During the last 19 games, including Friday’s loss to the Clippers, Belinelli is averaging 8.8 points on 33.1 percent shooting from the field and 21.2 percent shooting from 3-point land in 24.1 minutes per game. His offensive rating is 95.6 per 100 possessions and his defensive rating is 109 for a negative-13.4 rating.
McLemore hasn’t been nearly as bad, although he’s missed a few games during the stretch due to injury. In 15 games, the 23-year-old guard is averaging 7.9 points in 20.8 minutes a night while shooting 40 percent from the field and 34 percent from long range. He’s also posted an offensive rating of 109.9 and a defensive rating of 100.5 for an impressive positive 9.4.
McLemore has made a strong case for holding onto the starting job, but Belinelli’s minutes should be up for grabs, be it for Collison as a combo guard or Curry as a reserve.
The former Duke star is waiting his turn and trying his best to stay ready, but it’s not easy when he rarely gets a sniff of the court.
“It’s tough - it’s tough,” Curry said. “I think mentally, the toughest part is trying to stay involved and try to keep that competitive edge. It’s pretty easy to work out and keep your skills right, but I think mentally and being in good shape is the hardest part.”
Curry hasn’t been perfect at every opportunity, but he’s been good enough to warrant a longer look. He’s even earned the respect of his teammates for his ability to add something to the game when given an opportunity.
“We see him everyday, we know Seth can play,” Rudy Gay said. “Seth can score. Seth’s a great player. With an opportunity he could play anywhere.”
The Kings have turned to Quincy Acy for a spark on the frontline. It might the perfect moment to give Curry a shot to give the backcourt some much needed life.