March 1, 2012; Sacramento, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) drives past Sacramento Kings guard Isaiah Thomas (22) in the first quarter at the Power Balance Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-US PRESSWIRE
Chris Paul scored 22 and dished 9 assists, and the supporting cast stepped up to give the L.A. Clippers an important win over the Sacramento Kings as they open a six-game road trip.
The Los Angeles Clippers will play 20 games in the 31 days of March. The month started Thursday in Sacramento against the Kings in the first game of a six-game road trip. If you had asked coach Vinny Del Negro what concerned him most heading into this crucial and brutal month, his list might have looked something like this:
- Chris Paul and Blake Griffin need some help on offense.
- The bench needs to be more productive, and Mo Williams in particular needs to break out of his shooting slump.
- The team needs to get some production from the wing players, especially at the small forward position.
And that's pretty much exactly what happened as the Clippers cruised to a 108-100 win over the Kings.
Griffin, the team's leading scorer on the season, scored 10 points in a big first quarter -- and then got two dunks the rest of the game to finish with 14. Three Clippers scored more than that, and altogether six scored between 13 and 22. Paul led the way with 22 and 9 assists.
Williams, who had cooled off considerably in February after a torrid January, got off to a great start in March. He scored 18 on 7 for 14 shooting, making 4 of 7 three-pointers. He had only converted one of his prior 13 three-point attempts prior to Thursday. He scored 12 points in the fourth quarter, all on three-pointers, as the Clippers broke the game open and built a 19-point lead.
As for the wings, shooting guard Randy Foye scored 16 on six of 13 shooting including three makes from deep, and starting small forward Caron Butler, who had shot under 30 percent over the last five games, scored 13 on five of 11 shooting. More surprising perhaps was Bobby Simmons, signed just days prior to a 10-day contract. Simmons, a former Clipper who had been playing in the D-League, also scored 13, making 5-8 shots with three threes. That's 26 points from the small forward position -- in Tuesday loss to Minnesota, the Clippers got just two points from that spot.
Best of all for the Clippers as they enter this crazy month, Griffin played just 30 minutes and Paul played 32 -- L.A. has another game in Phoenix Friday night.
The Kings hung tough through three quarters on some hot three-point shooting of their own and a strong game from DeMarcus Cousins. After falling behind by 10 in the second quarter, Sacramento's second unit went on a 22-4 run that featured five three-pointers, three of them from rookie Jimmer Fredette. The Clippers were able to again tie the game by halftime, and never trailed in the second half. Cousins led the Kings with 23 points and 10 rebounds, and Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton each scored 18.
The Clippers improve to 21-12 on the season, 9-7 on the road. The nine road wins equals their total for all of last season. The Kings drop to 12-23, 8-6 at home.