Latest posts by Don McCormack (see all)
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Yes, the Cleveland Cavaliers are on a three-game road trip out west and, yes, they are coming off an emotional, hotly contested 99-92 loss at archrival Golden State on Christmas Day.
However, when they tip off tonight at against the Sacramento Kings, Cleveland will be the team with the fresher legs.
Sacramento (11-22) comes into this matchup with the Cavaliers (24-10) after being routed by the Los Angeles Clippers, 122-95, on Tuesday night at Staples Center.
In that game, the Kings hung with the Clippers for a quarter, playing to a 30-30 standoff. However, Los Angeles, which was playing without All-Star forward Blake Griffin and forward Danilo Gallinari, exploded in the second quarter, piling up 41 points and putting together a 37-14 run to close out the game and basically seal the deal.
“They got to penetrate the lane and spread out the 3, get to the line, and they just really controlled the game offensively,” Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein, who led Sacramento with 17 points and seven rebounds, told reporters after the loss. “They got to do whatever they wanted.”
Sacramento had won two games in a row before dropping its last two. A big problem for the Kings has been their bench. The Clippers reserves outscored the Sacramento subs, 72-43, Tuesday night.
With De’Aaron Fox sidelined with a partial tear in his right quadriceps, Kings coach Dave Joerger has inserted Buddy Hield (10 points, 0 rebounds, 0 assists in 18 minutes) back into the starting lineup.
Consequently, Sacramento’s three top reserves Tuesday night were all rookies — Frank Mason III (9 points), Justin Jackson (9 points) and Bogdan Bogdanovic (9 points). Guard Malachi Richardson, in his second year, was also in the rotation. He didn’t play many minutes last season as a rookie.
Richardson was the only bench player to reach double figures for the Kings against the Clippers, scoring 10 points.
The Kings shot just 41.7 percent from the floor (40-96), including 31.8 percent from beyond the arc (7-22) against the Clippers, who blazed away at 55 percent (44-80), including 42 percent from 3 (13-31). Sacramento was also beat up on the glass, 49-36,
Joerger realizes it’s not an easy task for his young squad, but he said his young squad is learning as it goes.
“We settled in on a rotation,” he said. “Guys are getting used to the league a little bit. They’d been scouted for the first time and have to be able to make those adjustments. And guys are continuing to improve on a daily basis.”
It won’t get any easier for the Kings tonight against Cleveland, which has won 19 of its 22 games and will likely be smarting after the loss at Golden State on Monday, especially without Fox, the No. 5 overall selection in the draft. He is averaging 9.4 points and 3.7 assists per game this season.