Kings top Clips for first back-to-back home wins since December

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- For one of the rare times this season, the Sacramento Kings were discussing defense and the role it played in their latest victory.

Tyreke Evans scored 22 points to help the Kings beat the Clippers 97-92 on Sunday night. The Clippers shot 37 percent and the points allowed was a season low for Sacramento, which entered the game fourth worst in the NBA in points allowed (106.5).

The Kings took the lead midway through the first quarter and never trailed again in winning two straight home games for the first time since mid-December.

"We understand the need to become a good defensive team," Kings coach Paul Westphal said. "We've had two good defensive performances in a row and I think three of the last five. If that can be a calling card as well as being an offensive team that's tough to guard, I think that we're taking good steps toward becoming a legitimate NBA team that can expect to win whenever we play."

The defense was crucial in a game where the offense tailed off in the second half when the Kings scored only 41 points. Sacramento, which led by 14 points at the half, converted only 16 of 24 free throws and was outrebounded 49-43.

Carl Landry scored 18 points, and Spencer Hawes had 16 points and nine rebounds for Sacramento. Omri Casspi added 12 points for the Kings, who committed just nine turnovers.

Chris Kaman had 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Clippers. Drew Gooden added 17 points, and Eric Gordon, Rasual Butler and Baron Davis each had 13.

"I think we took the first half off. I don't believe we're a good enough team to play the first half like that with poor energy," Clippers coach Kim Hughes said. "I thought we competed in the second half. I was disappointed in our bigs and I thought we turned the ball over way too many times [15]. I think we gave up 25 points on turnovers and we got six.

Landry scored 10 points in the fourth quarter and made two free throws with 11.6 seconds left to give Sacramento a 97-92 lead.

Butler's 3-pointer pulled the Clippers to 91-90 with 2:07 left. But on consecutive possessions, Evans ventured inside and came up with layups, the second one putting the Kings ahead 95-90 with 42.9 remaining. It was the only four points of the final quarter for a rookie who is accustomed to becoming the Kings go-to guy down the stretch.

"I like that situation, I like taking those big shots," Evans said.

The road continues to be a difficult place for the Clippers. They dropped their fifth straight and ninth in 10 games since Jan. 25.

"He [Evans] was tough and he put a lot of pressure on us defensively, attacking the basket" Gooden said. "It was a tough night defending him."

Hawes set the tone early with all 16 of his points coming in the first half. It was another strong game for the Kings center after his criticism of Westphal's rotation led to him not suiting up Tuesday night. Reconciled after a meeting with Westphal, Hawes was back in the starting lineup Friday night and responded with 15 points and 12 rebounds in a victory over Utah.

"I thought Spencer played a good complete game," Westphal said. "Even though in the second half he didn't score, I still thought that he was a big part of the win."

With the Kings playing uninspired and shooting 26 percent in the third quarter, the Clippers finally cut the lead under double figures. Kaman had eight points for Los Angeles, who outscored the Sacramento 26-20 and trailed 76-68 heading into the fourth.

Game notes
The Kings closed the first quarter on a 20-4 run to take a 32-18 lead. The Clippers shot 33 percent and had five turnovers. ... The Clippers are 3-2 under Hughes. ... Evans scored nine points in the third quarter, but needed nine shots to do it.

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