SACRAMENTO (AP) — The final two seconds were hectic but not costly for the Los Angeles Clippers, who started their season miserably but are now finding ways to win games even when they don’t play well.
Eric Gordon tied a career high with six 3-pointers and scored 31 points as the Clippers escaped with a 100-99 victory Monday night over the struggling Sacramento Kings, who missed the potential game-winner at the buzzer.
It wasn’t a thing of beauty for the Clippers, who committed 22 turnovers and squandered a nine-point lead late in the game. But they came away with another win, their second straight and fifth in six games. So no one was too upset afterward by the mistakes, the type that cost the Clippers when they opened the season by losing 13 of 14 games.
“We would have lost this game earlier in the year,” admitted Gordon, who made his first six 3-pointers before finally misfiring in the fourth quarter.
An ill-advised foul by Ryan Gomes on a 3-point attempt by Tyreke Evans was the biggest blunder of the game for the Clippers. Evans went to the line with 1.9 seconds left and made the first two, but the third attempt went in and out.
Rookie DeMarcus Cousins missed a tipped shot and the loose ball eventually wound up back in Evans’ hands, but he misfired on an open 9-footer in the lane with 0.3 seconds left.
“I thought I wasn’t going to get it off, so I kind of rushed it,” Evans said.
“I probably should have took my time. I was just trying to get the ball up and try to make it go in.”
It was a mistake the Clippers seemingly couldn’t overcome early in the season, leading to losses. This time it didn’t.
“You don’t want to give them three (free throw) shots there, we didn’t execute the way we wanted to,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “We were fortunate at the end, but we’ll take it. We’re finding ways to win. You’ve got to learn how to win games like that in this league.”
Blake Griffin had 24 points and 14 rebounds for the Clippers, who have won three straight on the road after opening the season 0-11. Baron Davis had 11 points and nine assists, and Al-Farouq Aminu also had 11 points.
“Teams like that are scrapping for a win, we obviously know the feeling,” Griffin said. “Give the Kings credit for the way they played. We had a tough time stopping Evans tonight.”
Evans scored a season-high 32 points in easily his most productive game thus far. The reigning Rookie of the Year has struggled for much of his second season.
In his previous two games, he had missed 25-of-31 shots and scored 19 total points. But even a rejuvenated Evans couldn’t rescue the Kings from another defeat. Sacramento has dropped eight straight, 22 of 24 and owns the NBA’s worst record (5-23).
“I felt good out there,” Evans said. “I’m just trying to put it in the past and trying to not think about anything. I’ve been playing terrible this year.”
Omri Casspi had 16 points, Beno Udrih 14, Carl Landry 13 and Francisco Garcia 12 for the Kings.
Evans lost the ball on a drive to the basket with the Kings down 98-97. Davis came up with the loose ball and passed to Griffin, who made an easy, uncontested dunk for a three-point lead with 5.1 seconds remaining. But the drama was far from over.
“A lot of times we’re still getting antsy late in games; we’re too hyped up and not executing like we should,” Davis said. “We need to figure out things that we need to do down the stretch and win these games. But we kept fighting tonight, we didn’t let this one get away from us.”
Ike Diogu scored six points and Gordon had five in the first 3 1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter, giving the Clippers an 87-81 lead. Griffin’s three-point play at the 5:49 mark put Los Angeles ahead 92-85.
The Kings charged back, as Garcia made a 3-pointer and Evans followed with an emphatic dunk and a 3-pointer, cutting the Clippers’ lead to 96-95 with 1:23 left.
Gordon and Evans matched each other offensively in the third quarter. Gordon made two 3-pointers and scored 11 points, while Evans had 10 points and helped the Kings pull even at 76 heading into the fourth period.
Griffin had 12 points and seven rebounds in the opening half, when the Clippers led 58-49. The first-year forward also had four of the Clippers’ 12 first-half turnovers. Udrih scored 12 points for the Kings.
Notes: Garcia made only his second start of the season and hit two 3-pointers in the game’s first four minutes. The Clippers shot 65 percent in the first half and put four players in double figures. Griffin recorded his 19th straight double-double. The Kings made a season-high 13 3-pointers.
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