Clippers struggle to mount comeback against Kings

© Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles suffered another double-digit loss, 123-107, after dropping the ball with Oklahoma City Thursday.

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Clippers continued to dig a deeper hole for themselves following the All Star break. Without one of their key starters, the Clippers fell on their home turf to the Sacramento Kings. 

It was LA’s first loss this season without Paul George playing (3-1). George sat on the sidelines in Sunday’s bout with left knee soreness.

Clippers star Kawhi Leonard reflected after the team’s loss Sunday.

“I feel like we’re competing but we’re a step behind. Hopefully we get a rhythm,” Leonard said about the team’s recent decline.“We’re a little flat right now, but we got time to pick it up.”

Leonard has played in 50 games this season thanks to his upstanding health, but as seen Sunday, it will take more than that for the team to reach their first NBA Finals.

Turning point: The Clippers trailed by as many as 18 points in the third quarter before dwindling their deficit down to single digits later in the period. LA trailed by five into the fourth, but De’Aaron Fox responded by closing out a game-high 33-point performance. Fox eventually led Sacramento to close out the 123-107 victory.

What it means: The Clippers suffer their first pair of back-to-back losses since December after their drop Sunday. To add to the damage, LA (37-19) also slipped behind the Denver Nuggets into the fourth-seed spot in Western Conference standings. 

The team now finds themselves in a sticky situation, having to claim their next three games if they want to reach 40 wins before 20 losses, a staple trait of a Finals contender.

Hits: James Harden showed out at the free throw line, making all 10 of his free throws attempts. He finished Sunday with 20 points while dishing eight assists.

Misses: Outside of missing one of their key starters, LA had some rough margins with the Kings. The Clippers allowed 25 points off turnovers while Sacramento scored 21 2nd chance points. All of that despite shooting 49.4% from the field. 

Stat of the game: LA, who leads the NBA second in three-point shooting at 39.3%, was held to a shocking 29.6% from deep. That performance also came, ironically, while facing the league’s worst defensive team when it comes to threes. 

Up next: The Clippers will remain at Arena for two more bouts with the Lakers and Washington Wizards. The team will first host their in-city rivals Wednesday Feb. 28 then face off with Washington Friday March 1.