Published April 06, 2012
| Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Blake Griffin made three straight jumpers in the closing minutes to finish with 14 points and nine rebounds, lifting the Los Angeles Clippers to a 93-85 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night.
Griffin's last jumper with 2:18 remaining put the Clippers ahead by three, and they held on to rebound from a loss to the Lakers a night earlier that ended a six-game winning streak — the franchise's best in 20 years — and slowed momentum to overtake its crosstown rival in the Pacific Division.
Randy Foye scored 20 points and Chris Paul had 13 points and eight assists for Los Angeles, closing to two games back of the Lakers. The Clippers host Sacramento on Saturday night.
Isaiah Thomas scored 17 points and Jason Thompson had 15 points and 16 rebounds for the Kings, losers of seven of their last eight. Sacramento is buried in last place in the Pacific Division and headed for another year in the NBA draft lottery.
The Kings started to crawl back against the Clippers behind their bench and a pair of rookies.
Thomas acrobatically avoided Kenyon Martin at the rim, with all 5-foot-9 of the point guard shielding the ball for a layup to give Sacramento a 72-71 lead in the fourth. And after the Clippers went back ahead by four, Thompson tipped in a rebound and Jimmer Fredette followed with a 3-pointer to put the Kings in front by three with 4:11 to play.
That about ended Sacramento's highlights.
Griffin, known best for his soaring dunks and mesmerizing athleticism, made three straight jumpers to give the Clippers an 84-81 lead. He also drew a fifth foul on DeMarcus Cousins moments later — a call that had Kings coach Keith Smart stomping his feet — and maintained his composure while the short-tempered Cousins constantly tangled up with him.
The teams traded baskets until time started to run out on Sacramento and it was forced to foul. Foye made four straight free throws — the last with 14.4 seconds remaining for a five-point lead that sealed the victory.
The physical play in the paint escalated between Cousins and Griffin all night.
After officials whistled Sacramento's Francisco Garcia for a technical foul for a late push that sent Paul into the basket's padding, Cousins shoved Griffin amid a small scrum that broke out under the hoop in the first quarter. They pushed and pulled each other for a rebound on the next possession, exchanging words nose to nose, and officials talked to each privately during a timeout.
Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro sat Griffin the first 7:30 of the second quarter, and Martin and Reggie Evans — players who've carved out careers with punishing plays — led a defensive charge that stymied Sacramento and Cousins. Los Angeles outscored the Kings 17-7 to begin the period, opening a 44-30 lead with most of its stars on the bench.
Sacramento answered with 12 straight points behind a flurry of foul shots as officials tried to keep the physical play from getting out of control. Paul and Griffin returned, and the Clippers pushed ahead 48-42 at halftime.
Cousins picked up his fourth foul reaching in against Griffin with 10:49 remaining in the third quarter, relegating Sacramento's big man — who has been surging since coach Keith Smart took over for the fired Paul Westphal after a 2-5 start — to the bench until 4:35 left in the fourth. Los Angeles built a 65-54 lead at one point during that span.
NOTES: Clippers G Mo Williams sat out with a sprained left big toe. Williams hopes to play Saturday night when the Clippers host Sacramento in Los Angeles. ... The Kings played without G Marcus Thornton (bruised left calf) and reserve F John Salmons (sore right hip) for the second straight game. ... Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, stuck in a stalemate with the Maloof family that owns the Kings over about $3.2 million in pre-development costs for an estimated $391 million new arena, was sitting courtside. None of the Maloof brothers were at their courtside seats