The Sacramento Kings get less than 24 hours to calm the emotions of a dramatic win when they host the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.
The Kings doubled their pleasure on Tuesday in a 124-123 victory over the Golden State Warriors. Not only did they get the better of their regional rival for the first time in three tries this season, but they also advanced to a home date Monday against the New Orleans Pelicans in the Western Conference semifinals of the NBA in-season tournament.
The Kings needed to come within at least 11 points of the Warriors in order to advance, but that appeared to be in jeopardy when the visitors bolted out to a 24-point lead in the first half.
However, just as Golden State started believing it could overcome long odds to earn tournament advancement through a big win and a points-based tiebreaker, Sacramento rallied to take the big margin out of the equation before pulling out a straight-up victory on a bank shot by Malik Monk with 7.4 seconds left.
Amid the postgame excitement came a dose of reality: It’s back to the regular NBA grind for a game against the Clippers on Wednesday night.
“We wanted to win the game,” King star De’Aaron Fox said when asked why his team hadn’t coasted down the stretch when the tournament point-differential tiebreaker was well in hand. “Obviously this still goes against our regular-season record, so we still wanted to win the game.”
After recovering from a sprained right ankle that forced him to sit out the tournament opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Fox had 43, 36 and 29 points in Sacramento’s tourney wins.
The Kings and Clippers will be meeting for the first time this season.
The Clippers have had 48 hours to simmer in the embarrassment of a 113-104 home loss Monday to a Denver Nuggets team missing Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon. The defeat capped a three-game homestand in which Los Angeles also fell to the Pelicans by 10 points before beating the Dallas Mavericks by 19 on Saturday.
Adding insult to injury, Russell Westbrook had a verbal run-in with a fan in the final minute of the Monday home loss, an incident for which the veteran refused to apologize afterward.
“It’s unfortunate today fans can say whatever they want,” Westbrook said. “I’m just protecting myself. Personally, I won’t allow it. I won’t stand for it.”
Westbrook didn’t appear to be one of the Clippers’ biggest problems in the loss. He posted 14 points and 11 rebounds off the bench on a night when starters James Harden (11), Paul George (six) and Terance Mann (five) combined for just 22 points, with George shooting 2 of 13.
Westbrook has come off the bench the past six games after starting the first 10. Los Angeles has gone 4-2 with the nine-time All-Star as a reserve, after a 3-7 start.
The Clippers finished their in-season tournament schedule last week, going 1-3 with a win over the Houston Rockets and losses to the Mavericks, Nuggets and Pelicans.
–Field Level Media