Clippers-Kings Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 05, 2012
A good way for the Los Angeles Clippers to bounce back from their first loss in almost two weeks might be a trip north to Sacramento. With their longest winning streak in 20 seasons in the past, the Clippers hope to regroup by continuing their success against the Kings on Thursday night in the first of a home-and-home set between the Pacific Division foes. The Clippers (32-22) were riding a season-high six-game winning streak when they fell 113-108 to their co-Staples Center tenant Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday. The loss was the Clippers first since they dropped three games in three nights on the road March 20-22. Caron Butler scored 28 points and Chris Paul added 22 with 16 assists but the Clippers allowed their city rival to shoot 51.8 percent and fell 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Lakers in the Pacific. "We have to learn how to win these games," Paul said. "I think it was a good learning process for us. This is how the playoffs are. It will help us in the future. "Ain't no moral victories around here." The Clippers are currently fourth in the competitive Western Conference. "The Western Conference, as usual, is bunched up right there at No. 4 through 11," coach Vinny Del Negro told the Clippers' official website. The Clippers have a good chance to bounce back Thursday at Sacramento, where they won 108-100 on March 1. Paul had 22 points and nine assists as Los Angeles went 12 of 23 from 3-point range while forcing 18 turnovers to beat the Kings for the fourth time in five games. Paul has averaged 24.0 points in his last four games against the Kings (19-35), who fell to 1-2 on their current four-game home stretch with a 109-100 loss to Phoenix on Tuesday. Despite rallying from a 17-point first-half deficit and a career-high 41 points and 12 rebounds from DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento allowed 30 fourth-quarter points while losing for the sixth time in eight games. "We have to look at games like this as our playoffs," said Sacramento coach Keith Smart, whose team has allowed an average 109.4 points over the last nine games. Cousins, however, continues to play well by averaging 26.4 points and 12.2 rebounds over that same nine-game stretch. "He's good because he doesn't care,'' Phoenix forward Marcin Gortat said of the second-year forward. "He doesn't care if he turns the ball over, doesn't care if he misses on a bad shot, he just keeps playing. He's really talented." After combining to score nine points on 3-of-17 shooting in two home games against the Clippers as a rookie in 2010-11, Cousins made 9 of 17 shots and finished with 23 points and 10 boards versus Los Angeles last month. Sacramento guard Isaiah Thomas scored 10 points off the bench in that contest, but the rookie has averaged 20.0 points and 6.8 assists in the last five games. These teams meet again Saturday night in Los Angeles.
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