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Clippers top Kings in what could be last game in Sacremento

The SportsXchange

SACRAMENTO -- Los Angeles Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro knew there would be a raucous crowd at Sleep Train Arena on Wednesday night.

"I hoped the energy would be enough to kick us in the butt and get us going," said Del Negro, who played his first two seasons in Sacramento during his 14-year pro career. "This (was) a back-to-back for us."

The Clippers had to work hard to get past the lowly Sacramento Kings Wednesday night at Sleep Train Arena, but they came away with a 112-108 victory before a sellout crowd of 17,317.

The game may have been the Kings' final contest in Sacramento. The current Maloof ownership group has an agreement to sell the franchise to the Hansen-Ballmer group, which plans to move the team to Seattle.

Meanwhile, Sacramento's Mayor Kevin Johnson has put together a group of investors that plan to purchase the team from the Maloofs and keep the Kings in their current city.

The Sacramento group, however, only will get that opportunity if the league's Board of Governors vote down the Hansen's sale. The Board of Governors is made up of the league's 30 owners, and the Sacramento group will need eight votes from the 30 owners to keep the team where it is.

The official vote is not expected to be held until late next week at the earliest.

So the Kings and their sellout crowd of devoted fans entered and left the arena not knowing whether their team will play in Sacramento again.

The Clippers (56-26) won the Pacific Division for the first time and, by virtue of their victory, finished fourth in the Western Conference. They will have the home-court advantage when they meet the Memphis Grizzlies in a first-round, seven-game rematch of last season's series.

Clippers point guard Chris Paul led L.A. with 25 points, 11 assists and zero turnovers in 35 minutes of action. He was ably assisted by sixth Jamal Crawford, who scored 24 points, including two high-arching jump shots down the stretch.

The Kings (28-54) were led by center DeMarcus Cousins, who had 36 points, a career-high 22 rebounds and three blocked. It may have been Cousins' finest all-round game as a pro.

Backup guard Marcus Thornton scored 23 points, while reserve forward Travis Outlaw scored 17. Point guard Isaiah Thomas scored 15 points and registered a season and team-high 10 assists.

Del Negro was pleased his team finished the regular-season with a seven-game winning streak.

"I'm proud we stepped up and got the home court advantage," he said. "We had some big wins and stepped up our intensity overall. You have to find ways to win. It's not always going to be perfect basketball but the effort and energy have been there. Sometimes that will get you over the hump."

Crawford said he responded to Paul's request.

"Chris told me, 'I need a big one from you,'" Crawford said. "I said, 'Alright, I got you.' He did a great job finding me. Teammates did a great job finding me."

Kings coach Keith Smart said the team's fans have been amazing.

"We have had our share of ups and downs but the fans have never wavered," the coach said. "The fans have shown resiliency to support this team and have done everything they could have possibly done. The support around is great around the community."

Cousins said he'd learned a lot this season and played the final game for more than himself.

"I played for the fans (Wednesday night)," he said. "They stuck with us through this season. Since I've been here, it's been the same thing, every year the same thing. I'm tired of it and I know they are tired of it."

NOTES: The Clippers became the fifth team in the Western Conference to win 55 games, and they join Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Denver and Memphis. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it's just the third time as many as five teams from the conference has won at least 55 games in a season. The Eastern Conference never has had five teams win 55 games in the same season. ... DeAndre Jordan entered the game shooting 76.6 percent since the All-Star break. ... Wednesday is Kings President of Basketball Operations Geoff Petrie's birthday. ... The Kings made six or more 3-pointers in 27 straight games entering this contest. They had nine on Wednesday. ... Sacramento had 15 100-point games in its last 17 home games. ... Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said, when thinking about Wednesday possibly being the Kings' final game in Sacramento, "That means I'm getting old. I played in the first game here and now I'm coaching what could be the last game here."
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