Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers were pushed to the brink by the Sacramento Kings at the Sleep Train Arena but managed to escape with a 111-104 victory to get the season started on the right foot.
Doc Rivers' squad broke out of the gates early in the season opener with newcomer Lance Stephenson opening the game up with a three from the right; he would get his next two points on the Clippers' next offensive possession. Then it was DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin linking up for the first time with the former hitting the latter in stride before the now 26-year-old finished at the rim while drawing contact.
The Clippers were making things look easy early on, moving the ball around and making sure everyone got some touches while finishing with high percentage shots. And by the time all but four minutes had ticked off the clock, the visitors had opened up a nine-point lead after Blake Griffin nailed a jumper from the elbow.
DeMarcus Cousins though would have his say, finishing with a team-high 32 points, early in that quarter scoring six unanswered points -- which included a three over the outstretched arm of DeAndre Jordan. Whenever the Kings needed an offensive spark they would turn to Boogie as he was able to muscle his way down low.
In the second half, Sacramento slowly trimmed the Clippers lead. Cousins hit two threes in a row midway through the third which sliced the Clippers lead to eight points. However, it was the fourth quarter where they eventually took the lead. Cousins worked his way down low some more, hitting both free throws while scoring a couple of easy baskets near the rim. Rudy Gay found the bottom of the hoop from eight feet away, giving his team their first of two leads of the game.
One of the keys to this victory was the defense of the Clippers. To start the game, they held the Kings to just 7 of 20 shooting. The length of DJ caused havoc underneath the basket as he was also able to block four shots with Josh Smith adding another four. Paul stole the ball twice, with the rest of the team combining for six more.
For Sacramento, there were some good signs. Rudy Gay put in 30 solid minutes, shooting a little under 50 percent while finishing second on the team in scoring; albeit with half as many points as the team's leading scorer. Off the bench, it was Darren Collison providing a little spark. He led all substitutes with only 13 points but did put in a solid defensive shift.
Before these two play again on Saturday night in Los Angeles, the Clippers will play their first game at Staples against the Dallas Mavericks in what should be a very interesting matchup. Meanwhile, tonight's hosts will continue their two-game homestand by welcoming the Los Angeles Lakers to the state capital.