It was over before you knew it, before many in the crowd had a chance to bite into their hot dogs or take a sip from their drinks, before the Clippers could really flex their muscles in front of the Sacramento Kings.
Caron Butler sank a 3-pointer to break an early tie. DeAndre Jordan soared to dunk a missed shot by teammate Chris Paul a moment later and then dunked a lob pass from Blake Griffin, who sank a hook shot a minute later.
The Clippers were never challenged again and seized a lopsided 116-81 victory Saturday night from the Kings in front of a sellout crowd of 19,060 at Staples Center. After breaking a 6-6 tie on Butler’s 3, the Clippers were unstoppable.
“We didn’t let them in the game early,” Paul said after the Clippers’ widest margin of victory this season. “The ball moved. Everybody touched the ball. We’re pretty dangerous when that happens. Tonight we made shots and got (defense) stops.
“It was collective.”
Playing with an unmistakable sense of purpose, the Clippers did what good teams are supposed to do when they play poor ones. They exploited the Kings’ weaknesses and took away their will to fight by building a big lead and holding it.
The Clippers led by 30-17 after the first quarter, then by 58-34 at halftime before they really warmed to the task. They led by as many as 34 points in the third quarter and held an 87-58 advantage going into the fourth.
It was simply exercise by then, which was fine with the Clippers (10-6). Their second unit got to play extended minutes and their starters got a chance to rest and cheer their teammates. No one in a Clippers uniform was overworked.
Clippers fans, having grown bored with the game, entertained themselves by performing a fourth-quarter wave before heading for the exits. The Clippers led by 101-70 when many in the crowd departed with 5:37 remaining.
Jamal Crawford, a reserve guard, led seven Clippers in double figures with 17 points. Griffin, Paul and backup guard Eric Bledsoe each scored 14 points. Jordan scored 13 points, Matt Barnes added 12 points and Butler scored 11 points.
Marcus Thornton scored 20 points for the Kings, who fell to 4-12 overall and 0-6 on the road. Jason Thompson added 16 points and 12 rebounds. Thornton and Thompson were the only Kings starters to score in double figures.
“I said to the guys, ‘I’ve never played on an Olympic team, but it seems that’s how this is,’” said Crawford, who added a season-high six assists. “Very balanced, guys really unselfish. We have to do it by committee and that’s how we did it.”
The Clippers did all the right things to ensure they would have an easy night. They took the game to the Kings from the opening tip and led by as many as 25 points in the second quarter, playing with equal gusto with and without the ball.
Sacramento seemed befuddled at both ends of the court as the Clippers overwhelmed the Kings with their depth, their skill and a sound game plan. Mostly, the Clippers put their heads down and took the ball to the hoop.
Lob City was open for business with the Clippers scoring 32 of their first 58 points in the paint. There was one significant mishap when Griffin attempted to throw down a lob for a wicked dunk but ended up tossing the ball into the Clippers’ bench.
Griffin was fouled on his misfire, which figured to be a staple on the late-night blooper reels. He made up for it by sinking the ensuing free throws and helping to propel the Clippers to a commanding 58-34 lead by halftime.
“They played at a level that was very high,” Kings coach Keith Smart said of the Clippers. “They have a group of players who play together and they have a bigger purpose with what they are doing and how they are playing, and they show it.”