Kings 105, Clippers 100
LOS ANGELES (AP)—Ron Artest and Elton Brand became quite chummy during their two seasons as teammates with the Chicago Bulls. So the Sacramento Kings forward had decidedly mixed feelings after doing so much damage to the Los Angeles Clippers’ playoff hopes.
Artest had a career-high 10 assists, leading the Kings to a 105-100 victory over the fading Clippers on Sunday. He also scored 15 points, including an 18-foot jumper with 36 seconds remaining after the Clippers closed to 96-92 on a pair of 3-pointers by Tim Thomas 26 seconds apart.
“I always want to see my boy E.B. in the playoffs,” Artest said. “I kind of wished we could have lost tonight so that they could have won, because I like to see Elton do well all the time.”
Brand had 29 points and 14 rebounds for the Clippers, who lost for the 20th time in their past 23 meetings with Sacramento. They fell one game behind eighth-place Golden State in the Western Conference.
“We needed to step up, and we didn’t,” Brand said. “I’m real disappointed with the way we played in the first quarter. I’m shocked because our guys didn’t come out and play hard. We knew what the task was at hand, but we just didn’t deliver. Some guys made the effort and other guys didn’t.”
Playing in front of their 13th sellout crowd of the season, the Clippers fell flat on their faces in the first half against the last-place team in the Pacific Division and fell behind by 23 points midway through the second quarter before making it close at the end.
Corey Maggette, who averaged 25 points over his previous six games, played 16 minutes in the first half without scoring and finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Point guard Jason Hart, who had become a key ingredient in the Clippers’ playoff push after getting waived by the Kings on March 1, started his 20th consecutive game and finished with six points and six assists in 28 minutes.
The Clippers end the regular season with games Tuesday night at Phoenix and Wednesday night at home against New Orleans, setting themselves up for a possible scenario in which they could be mathematically eliminated in the season finale—which is Fan Appreciation Night at Staples Center.
The Kings, who had lost 15 of their previous 19 games, wrapped up their road schedule with a 13-28 record—the worst mark since 1997-98, when they were 6-35 under coach Eddie Jordan. Despite being 14 games under .500 after eight consecutive postseason appearances, they will have plenty of say regarding who gets the final two playoff spots in the conference. Sacramento finishes the season at home against the Hornets and Lakers, who are still in the hunt.
“We definitely need help, but it doesn’t look like we are going to get any,” Brand said.
The Clippers were in a position to clinch a playoff spot last season by beating Sacramento at Staples Center, but lost that night after blowing a four-point lead in the final three minutes. They eventually secured one with seven games to spare and made it to the second round for the first time in 30 years.
Reserve swingman Francisco Garcia scored 16 points for the Kings, including a pair of 3-pointers down the stretch. Mike Bibby, one of six Sacramento players in double digits, scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half.
Artest, who never had more than nine assists in any of his 475 previous NBA regular-season games, had seven in the first quarter help Sacramento take a 34-23 lead. Three of them came on 3-point baskets by Bibby. Artest surpassed his previous career high in assists when he set up John Salmons for a jumper that gave his team an 85-73 lead with 7:29 to play.
“They were just doubling me coming down, so I just got rid of it and my teammates hit shots,” Artest said. “I’m always able to set my teammates up. I haven’t had a chance to do it this year, but in Indiana I was in a situation where I was able to pass the ball a little bit more.”
The Kings salvaged a split of the four-game season series. The Clippers won 102-93 win on Dec. 29 in Los Angeles, ending a 14-game losing streak against the Kings, and their 105-101 victory on March 30 snapped a string of 17 consecutive losses at Sacramento.
Brand, who wears No. 42, said he will donate his jersey from this game to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Dream Foundation in honor of the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s major league debut. “I started wearing that number before middle school because it was the biggest jersey available. But when I got older and found out the significance of it, then I really embraced it—and now, I’ll never change it,” Brand said. “Jackie Robinson broke barriers, not only in baseball, but all sports. I think it’s special that all the Dodgers are wearing 42 today, and I hope they win that game.” … Kings F Corliss Williamson missed his fifth straight game because of a sore right heel.