They looked disjointed, unsure of themselves and, on more than once occasion, frustrated with one another.
By the end Saturday afternoon, the Clippers looked glad the game was over.
Trailing Sacramento for the first 39 minutes at Staples Center, the Clippers couldn’t overcome their own sloppiness and a season-best performance from Kings guard Kent Bazemore in a 112-103 loss in their first game after the NBA’s All-Star break.
Kawhi Leonard led all scorers with 31 points and was even serenaded with “MVP” chants less than a week after the Clippers’ star was named the most valuable player of the NBA All-Star game. His dunk with 57 seconds remaining trimmed the Clippers’ deficit from eight to six, but Kings guard De’Aaron Fox answered with a layup of his own with 39 seconds remaining to effectively shutter the Clippers’ comeback and continue his torture of the Los Angeles defense.
Fox finished with 20 points, eight assists and four rebounds. Bazemore had 23 points for Sacramento (23-33).
With guard Patrick Beverley and forward Paul George both unavailable to play and point guard Reggie Jackson starting only two days after he signed, the Clippers’ offense missed 13 of its first 14 shots and 30 of its first 41.
Not until midway through the second quarter did the Clippers’ number of made field goals finally exceed their turnover total. They ultimately finished with 19 turnovers.
Despite that unsightly offensive performance, the Clippers (37-19) trailed by only six at halftime after Jackson’s three-pointer — his first basket as a Clipper — beat the halftime buzzer. Center Ivica Zubac was another rare first-half bright spot, and he finished with eight points and 15 rebounds.
The Clippers’ deficit would wax and wane for the next 15 minutes, from four with 7:51 to play in the third quarter to 12 five minutes later. One minute after that, it was back to four after an 8-0 Clippers run capped by a three-pointer by Lou Williams, who at one point Saturday, had only one made field goal but and had seven turnovers. His turnaround coincided with that of the Clippers.
Montrezl Harrell’s basket with 8:29 remaining led to the Clippers’ first lead, and out of a Sacramento timeout, Williams added to it with his straight-line drive toward the rim. Williams finished with 24 points and eight turnovers, but the Clippers could not hold onto the lead.