LOS ANGELES (AP) Jamal Crawford isn’t the only player who can provide offense and leadership off coach Vinny Del Negro’s bench.
Matt Barnes and Eric Bledsoe were equally instrumental in leading the Los Angeles Clippers to their most lopsided victory over the Sacramento Kings franchise, while allowing all of the starters sit out the fourth quarter.
Crawford, Bledsoe and Barnes combined for 43 points, leading seven Clippers in double-digit scoring en route to a 116-81 blowout on Saturday night. Blake Griffin had 14 points and nine rebounds, Chris Paul had 14 points and five assists, and DeAndre Jordan had 13 points and six boards as they beat Sacramento for the fourth straight time.
“The goal of a bench is to increase the lead, or get the lead back,” said Barnes, who made his first five shots – including a pair of 3-pointers – and finished with 12 points.
“It’s something that’s got to be done. You never want to give the lead up, and I think we did a good job of that tonight. It’s a long season, and it’s important to get the production out of your starters and your bench. That’s an effective way to go far in the playoffs.”
Chauncey Billups scored only six points in his second game since recovering from a torn left Achilles tendon that sidelined him for the final 38 games of last season and the first 14 this season. But the Clippers outscored Sacramento 41-22 while he was in the game. They finished with only five turnovers – while converting 17 turnovers by the Kings into 27 points.
“We just made the right plays,” Paul said. “We didn’t wait. When double-teams came, guys didn’t hold onto the ball. When you make the right play and make the right passes, turnovers are limited. We got out in transition and just executed. The ball moved and everybody touched the ball. We’re pretty dangerous when that happens.”
“It was very frustrating,” Thompson said. “They were pretty much getting anything they wanted on the offensive end, and we obviously didn’t make it better by not scoring in the beginning. We got ourselves into a hole that we couldn’t get out of. You know the focal points over there, the guys who are going to get most of the touches, and you try to limit that. But most of their guys couldn’t miss a shot.”
DeMarcus Cousins finished with eight points and six rebounds in just 18 minutes after sitting out the entire second and fourth quarters. The Kings are 1-7 in head-to-head matchups between Cousins and Griffin. In the seven previous meetings, Griffin averaged 20.6 points, 12.0 rebounds and was shooting 60.2 percent from the field while Cousins averaged 11.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 35.7 percent shooting.
Sacramento is 0-6 on the road – the club’s worst start since 2007-08, when the Kings lost their first nine to tie a franchise record. The league’s only other winless road team is Washington (0-7).
“We didn’t really come out with any energy. And it showed,” Cousins said. “We got off to a slow start. They came out to play and we didn’t come ready to play.”
Los Angeles led 58-34 at halftime – with no one scoring in double digits. The bench had 25 points in the half, including nine by Barnes.
The Clippers opened the game with a 17-6 run, led by Jordan’s six points and four rebounds. Paul went to the bench after picking up his second foul with 5:15 left in the first quarter, but Bledsoe and the rest of the reserves held Sacramento in check – building the lead up to 46-24 by the time Paul reported back in with 6:25 left in the half. Bledsoe had 14 points and four assists.
“We have so much confidence in Eric Bledsoe,” Barnes said. “Chris is one of the best, but Bled is on his way to being one of the best. So there’s no real dropoff with the intensity out there.”
Sacramento coach Keith Smart was well aware of the Clippers’ depth. Four of the reserves played more than 20 minutes, including Lamar Odom, who had six points, five rebounds and five assists.
“They’ve got a lot of guys over there that can make up a lot of ground,” Smart said. “So even if a guy gets two fouls early, like in Chris Paul‘s case, you have really three other point guards over there that can play and cover for him – guys who have been starters in this league.
“I mean, Jamal Crawford can carry a team by himself. Bledsoe’s been playing very, very well, and he’s being taught the right way by a collection of really top-line players over there. And then you’ve got Billups.”
Del Negro sat his entire starting unit to begin the second quarter. Crawford, who had 17 points, gave the Clippers a 37-21 lead on a 3-pointer with 9:33 left in the half. It was his first basket of the game after starting out 0 for 4.
NOTES: A moment of silence was observed for Clippers public address announcer David Courtney, who died Thursday of a pulmonary embolism at age 56. Staples Center’s game-night crew put together a photo montage in his memory and showed it on the video board, and a tape of Courtney’s voice was used to introduce the Clippers’ starting lineup one final time. … Courtney also handled the p.a. duties for the Angels and the reigning NHL champion Kings, but was denied a chance to preside over the raising of the Stanley Cup banner to the Staples Center rafters because of hockey’s lockout. … Eric Smith, the Dodgers’ p.a. announcer, has returned to his old job at the Clippers’ courtside table for the rest of the season. … Sacramento is 0-12 when trailing after three quarters. The Clippers are 8-0 when taking a lead into the fourth.