Clippers’ young unit mounts comeback but Kings get the win

After all, the participation of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in Friday’s training session did not herald the return of the injured stars.

Continuing the lull around their eventual return, the all-star duo watched from the bench in street clothes while their Clippers teammates were stunned with a 123-96 loss on Saturday afternoon at the Arena.

Substitute Norman Powell, who suffered a shot on target for three weeks before injuring his groin in Portland on Tuesday, sat out a second straight game. As the Kings’ lead increased to 28 points before halftime, Powell rested his chin on his right hand and his expression conveyed the emotion of that loss.

The Clippers came closest to the arena when a young lineup narrowed to 16 points with ten minutes left.

The Kings then restored order by scoring nine straight points.

Brandon Boston Jr. posted a team-high with 18 points, with Ivica Zubac contributing 13 points and 15 rebounds, but the Clippers posted a feeble 35% on Saturday.

A day earlier, coach Tyronn Lue had said the team would wait and see how their injured stars were feeling after training before determining their availability. Leonard “felt good after practice,” said the coach – but missed his sixth straight game. A four-game road trip beginning Monday in Charlotte is Leonard’s next opportunity to appear in his sixth game of the season.

“We’ll get him back real soon,” Lue said. “He’s going on the journey, so that’s positive.”

More than a quarter into the season, the Clippers’ championship aspirations remain possible even after a 13-11 start. Last season’s example from eventual finalists Boston — just 20-21 last January before a pulverizing defensive turn — and Golden State — mired in defensive troubles as late as March — underscored the patience one should exercise before considering a contender depreciates with a deep bank and supported by deep pockets.

However, achieving the form the Clippers expected of themselves last preseason will require more than just improving their core problems of reducing turnovers, taking more free throws and narrowing their throw differential. The Clippers are outstripping their opponents by 38 points in George and Leonard’s minutes this season — a total but they only reach 65 minutes.

For context, Phoenix has climbed to a West-leading 15-7 record behind the 687 minutes shared by Devin Booker and Mikal Bridges. And it’s no coincidence that Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown spent 530 minutes together amid Boston’s best 18-5 start in the league.

Sacramento (12-9), a franchise derided during its 16-year playoff drought, has emerged as a trendy team to watch in coach Mike Brown’s first season. After victories this season, the Kings ignite a laser on their home arena that can be seen for miles – a practice that has achieved iconic status, with some fans even chanting “Light the beam!” in the closing minutes of Saturday’s blowout.

For their part, the Clippers could begin to light a prayer candle in hopes of making their roster whole again.

On Saturday, the Clippers played intermittently while limping. Point guard Reggie Jackson, who was suffering from back spasms after a bad fall Tuesday in Portland, fell again after two minutes in the first quarter against Sacramento while trying to put Ivica Zubac in the middle. The ball and Jackson went wide and only Wilson’s model bounced quickly.

The point guard searched the court for several possessions before heading briefly to the dressing room. Jackson admitted that late in the first quarter, a fan called his name by raising a thumb. However, he was not ruled out and played 23 minutes, although he rarely seemed to play without a degree of discomfort.

Jackson made one of 12 shots and finished with zero assists. Forward Marcus Morris Sr. made two of 11 shots. Morris is one of the few reliable offensive options throughout the season, having come to training camp healthy. He’s hit rough slingshot shooting and has fired 26% of his shots over the past week, including five of his 21 three-pointers.

In a move Lue hinted at a day earlier, rookie Moussa Diabate continued to get more minutes, this time replacing Zubac, the role once held by Moses Brown. Diabate came on in the first quarter and eventually played 18 minutes, finishing with four points and five rebounds. Clippers’ young unit mounts comeback but Kings get the win

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