LOS ANGELES -- All things considered, the Los Angeles Clippers figured they caught a break playing the struggling Sacramento Kings Saturday on the front end of a back-to-back, two-game set that culminates with a visit from the Chicago Bulls Sunday.
Only someone forgot to tell the Kings they were playing tune-up in the Clippers' weekend production. As a result, what was supposed to be a minimum day for Los Angeles ended up much more complicated ordeal than originally planned.
The Clippers finally gathered themselves thanks to a careless foul by Kings center DeMarcus Cousins and some late-game heroics by point guard Chris Paul to pull out a 103-102 win.
Paul hit one of two free throws with 2.5 seconds left to give the Clippers a 103-102 lead and the Clippers survived a last-second shot by Cousins to hang on for the win.
Paul had 22 points and nine assists -- ending his record-breaking 13-game double-double streak to begin the season -- and center DeAndre Jordan added 17 points and 12 rebounds and forward Blake Griffin had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Clippers.
"It's always tough, because every teams going to make a run," Paul said. "Every team is trying to put together a complete 48 minutes. At some point we knew we wanted to shoot the ball but had to sustain our defense."
Griffin was disappointed with the Clippers losing their big lead.
"I think it's a mental thing," Griffin said. "You have to stay locked in and be focused, and prepared to really stay on yourself -- not allow yourself or your teammates to get loose or to relax."
Cousins scored 23 points and grabbed 19 rebounds and point guard Isaiah Thomas and forward Patrick Patterson scored 22 and 21 points off the bench for the Kings.
"The way we played at the end, down the stretch of that game, we've got to start games off the same way, so we won't be in those situations and we'll have a better chance," Cousins said.
It would also help if the Kings played with more poise, something that eluded them at a key juncture when Cousins was called for a technical. Cousins aggressively fouled Griffin as Griffin went up for a dunk, resulting in a three-point play to cut the Kings' lead to 94-92.
The play was the catalyst for the Clippers' final push to win the game.
Clippers guard Jared Dudley sank a 3-pointer on the Clippers' next possession to make it 96-95 and then Paul sank a three with 1:26 remaining to tie it at 98-98.
Cousins missed two free throws on the Kings' next possession and Paul sliced through the lane for a layup to give the Clippers a 100-98 lead with 1:04 remaining.
Thomas sank two free throws to tie it at 100-100 but Griffin threw down a dunk to make it 102-100 with 42 seconds left.
But Thomas added two more free throws with 24.2 seconds left to tie it again at 102-102 -- only for Paul to win it with his free throw.
"They're a great team over here," Thomas said. "They're a veteran team that's been through playoffs and know how to win. So, we're still learning and this is a process. I think today, overall, we got better, we just didn't get the win."
Kings forward Travis Outlaw horse-collared guard J.J. Redick to the ground with 8:05 remaining in the fourth quarter, resulting in a flagrant-2 foul and Outlaw being ejected from the game.
NOTES Clippers F Matt Barnes will miss a minimum of two weeks after suffering a retinal tear in his left eye on Monday against Memphis. Barnes underwent a surgical procedure on Tuesday to repair the retinal. ... Coach Michael Malone has been with the Kings for just a few months, but he's well aware of the history between Kings C DeMarcus Cousins and Clippers F Blake Griffin. "There's no love lost," Malone said, referring to a contentious past in which Cousins accused the NBA of babying Griffin and giving him preferential treatment. "He's a new and improved DeMarcus Cousins as a player and in terms of his emotions," Malone said.