LOS ANGELES -- Blake Griffin created a stir a few weeks ago when he told ESPN that "Lob City was done."
His teammates, though, must not have taken the message seriously just yet because the Los Angeles Clippers' first four field goals against the Sacramento Kings on Friday night were all dunks, including a no-look lob from Chris Paul to DeAndre Jordan.
The rest of the evening wasn't as pretty, with the Kings ultimately prevailing, 110-100.
After taking an impressive 30-20 lead at the end of the first quarter, the Clippers' bench gave up a 13-1 run to start the second quarter and the team was in a dogfight the rest of the way. Led by Isaiah Thomas (27 points) and DeMarcus Cousins (20 points), the Kings built on their six-point halftime lead to pull away from the Clippers in the third quarter, leading by as many as 19 points.
Coach Doc Rivers decided to sit his starters the rest of the way, and while the bench was able to cut into the double-digit deficit a bit, it wasn't enough to snag another late victory for the second straight game.
With the loss, the Clippers finished the preseason 5-3. The Clippers will next take on the rival Los Angeles Lakers in their regular-season opener on Tuesday night.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
With Darren Collison (bruised left kneecap) and Maalik Wayns both out of the lineup, Rivers was forced to use Jamal Crawford and Willie Green as de facto point guards when Paul sat at the end of the first quarter and the beginning of the second. The result was sloppy and inefficient play offensively (26.7 percent shooting, five turnovers), and an inability to stop Thomas or Marcus Thornton's penetration on defense.
Rivers quickly reinserted Paul, Griffin and Matt Barnes, who made his preseason debut, just three minutes into the quarter to calm the storm, but even that couldn't stop the Kings' momentum. Thomas, who scored 12 points and dished out three assists, and the Kings used a 22-6 run to take a 42-36 lead at the 6:09 mark. The Clippers' starters played them even the rest of the way but still lost the quarter, 37-21, and eventually the game.
One of the Clippers' only glaring deficiencies this preseason has been their lack of frontcourt depth. Behind Griffin and Jordan, there isn't another big man capable of rebounding and defending at an above-average rate.
Part of the reason the Kings' offense was so effective in the second and third quarters was because the Clippers' backup bigs weren't able to contain ball handlers in the pick-and-roll, step up and contest shots at the rim or effectively defend the Kings' post players.
Overall, the Kings dominated points in the paint (48-26) and the rebounding battle (50-41) -- especially on the offensive end (14-7 edge). The Clippers were outrebounded in six of their eight preseason games, which is a troubling sign for a team hoping to contend.
When reminded that the preseason was almost over on Wednesday night before the Clippers' game against the Utah Jazz, Rivers had a simple response: "Amen." Judging by the final score and the Clippers' lack of effort at times Friday, his team clearly felt the same way.
The crisp defensive rotations that helped define the early part of the Clippers' preseason were non-existent, as several Kings players created space at will and either attacked the rim or pulled up from midrange. Offensively, the onus fell too heavily on the shoulders of Paul (23 points) and Jordan (12 points), as Griffin (just seven points, 2-of-4 shooting), Barnes (0-of-5 shooting) and J.J. Redick (2-of-6 shooting) struggled to score and find high-percentage looks.
That fell in line with Rivers' overall assessment of the Clippers' preseason on Wednesday night.
"It's tough to evaluate," Rivers said. "Preseasons are so difficult to evaluate. I like where we are in some areas and we're behind in some areas. We're behind offensively. ... Defensively we're ahead of schedule and that's unusual. Usually it's the exact opposite."