Yogi Ferrell entered the game to start the fourth quarter. About a minute and a half later, Harry Giles III got the call. Then came Ben McLemore and Skal Labissiere with 8:54 to go.
The Kings went down 27 less than a minute later, but the reserves weren’t interested in just letting the game go.
Frank Mason III also checked in as Sacramento went on a 27-3 run and got to within three before the Clippers held on for a 127-118 victory Wednesday night at Staples Center.
“I’m really proud of that group,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. “I’m proud of all of our guys. But I’m happy for that group. They were ready for their opportunity, came in and played well.”
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Had the Kings pulled off the rally, it would have tied for the sixth-largest comeback in NBA history, which isn’t foreign territory for the franchise. Sacramento rallied from a 35-point deficit with less than nine minutes left to escape United Center with a 102-98 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Dec. 21, 2009. That’s No. 2 on the list of biggest NBA comebacks.
The Kings (18-16) won their previous two games after trailing by 19 to become the first team in eight years to accomplish the feat.
After Sunday’s win over the New Orleans Pelicans, Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein said, “We just don’t quit.”
Behind the drive from the bench, the Kings didn’t quit Wednesday. They just came up a bit short.
Ferrell got it started with a step-back jumper. Over nearly seven minutes, the Kings caught fire and Mason’s 3-pointer pulled them as close as they had been since the opening quarter. Most of the damage in the run was done by McLemore. He was 4 of 6 – including three 3-pointers while just missing a fourth that bounced and hung above the basket before finally rolling off the back – to finish with 11 points.
But the Clippers (20-14) ended the game on a 6-0 run. Lou Williams came off the bench to lead Los Angeles with 24 points.
“I give them credit,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said of the Kings. “With Sacramento, they don’t go away, they keep playing.”
Rivers had to reinsert most of his starters with 3:22 left in a bid to preserve the victory.
“I thought it was a great lesson for (the Clippers reserves),” he said. “You don’t get lost in the fact that you won the game.”
The Kings have lost seven in a row to the Clippers. The last time Sacramento won in this series was March 26, 2017, when the team outscored L.A. 33-21 in the fourth quarter for a 98-97 victory at Staples Center.
Some of the Kings’ starters were impressed with the effort from the reserves.
“The guys were in rhythm. The ball was moving and they played great together,” said guard Buddy Hield, who scored 11 points and was one of seven Kings in double digits. “Hats off to them. We, the first group, got to do better. Second group was great. They were ready to get into the game and made a run for us.”
Guard De’Aaron Fox said he told the unit to set a tone for the next game.
“Let’s just try to leave this game with some momentum,” Fox said. “We have another game tomorrow,” adding that a good thing about the NBA is a team can get its next opportunity to play as soon as the next day.
The Kings host the Los Angeles Lakers for the second time this season at 7 p.m. Thursday. The visitors will be without two veteran All-Stars in forward LeBron James and former Kings guard Rajon Rondo.
James strained his left groin during the Lakers’ 126-101 win over the Golden State Warriors on Monday at Oracle Arena. As for Rondo, he sprained a finger on his right hand and, like James, will not travel to Golden 1 Center.
The status for Sunday’s rematch in L.A. is unknown, but Fox isn’t looking ahead. There’s only one thing to do after taking a loss like this one.
“I’ll let this roll off my back; there’s 82 games,” Fox said. “You can’t let a game like this dictate how you come out tomorrow.”