Clippers shoot for 4-0 road trip, take on Kings

The Los Angeles Clippers will try to complete a perfect, four-game road swing on Tuesday in a matchup crucial to Western Conference playoff positioning when they visit the Sacramento Kings.

The Kings will be closing out a five-game homestand before they hit the road for four straight — three of which are against opponents locked in their own pursuits of playoff berths.

Sacramento, coming off a 127-106 rout of the Utah Jazz on Sunday, sits eighth in the West but is only 1 1/2 games behind the New Orleans Pelicans in the chase for sixth place, the final guaranteed postseason spot.

The Kings are four games behind the Clippers for home-court advantage in the first round. Los Angeles has bolstered its standing in recent days with a three-game winning streak.

After knocking off Philadelphia by one point and Orlando by three last Wednesday and Friday, the Clippers followed them up with a more comfortable, 130-118 defeat of Charlotte on Sunday.

Paul George erupted for a season-high 41 points on 14-of-21 shooting, including 8-of-12 from 3-point range, while Kawhi Leonard scored 23 points for his ninth outing of 20-plus over the last 10 games. Leonard, however, has been ruled out for Tuesday’s game due to right knee soreness.

“Getting a win however you’ve got to (get) it is the most important thing,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said following Sunday’s win. “We’ve still got a lot to build on and get better with.”

Lue emphasized starting stronger on the defensive end for the final stretch of the regular season, with Los Angeles looking to solidify a seed with home-court advantage in the opening round.

The Clippers lead fifth-place Dallas by two games and sixth-place New Orleans 2 1/2. They trail third-place Minnesota by four.

Tuesday’s meeting with Sacramento is the last between the divisional counterparts this season, with Los Angeles holding a 2-1 advantage. The Clippers won 131-117 in Sacramento on Nov. 29, behind 34 points and nine rebounds from Leonard, and 119-99 in Los Angeles on Dec. 12 when Leonard scored 31 points.

A key difference in Sacramento’s one win — a 123-107 home victory on Feb. 25 — was limiting Leonard to 20 points on 7-of-18 shooting from the floor.

Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox, who is averaging 26.4 points per game this season, had one of his lowest-scoring performances of the season with 14 points in the December contest. But he bookended that with performances of 40 and 33 points in the other Clippers matchups.

Fox finished with 24 points and 12 assists in Sacramento’s win on Sunday, while Domantas Sabonis recorded his 70th double-double of the season with 17 points and 11 rebounds. The streak of 57 consecutive double-doubles he carries into Tuesday is the longest since the NBA-ABA merger.

Sacramento has relied on the duo all season but will need others to step up down the stretch, with Malik Monk sustaining an MCL sprain expected to keep him out 4-6 weeks and Kevin Huerter lost to the season with a left shoulder injury.

“We do run our offense through (Sabonis), but usually going through Domas we go to somebody through him … and usually, it’s the two guys (who) are injured (Monk and Huerter),” Kings coach Mike Brown said. “So now, we have guys (who) are cast in new roles, because we can’t rely on Fox to go get 30 (points) every night.”

–Field Level Media