California Battle; Bettors Picking Clippers Over Kings by Wide Margin
In the interim, the Pacific Division rivals will meet for the second time this season when the Kings look to win their 15th straight over the last-place Clippers on Friday.
There are reports that Sacramento (12-14) may deal disgruntled swingman Ron Artest to Los Angeles (12-16) for forward Corey Maggette, who is unhappy with his reserve role for the Clippers. Artest refused to address the trade speculation after a 101-76 victory over Philadelphia on Wednesday.
Artest returned to action after missing two straight games due to sore knees - a health problem not everybody believed was legitimate. He had 10 points, four rebounds, four assists.
``Just stay with it,'' Artest said. ``When things are not going your way, you keep going and keep executing.''
The Kings weren't debating the legitimacy of the health problems for Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Kevin Martin. Abdur-Rahim sat out Wednesday due to the flu and Martin scored 18 points despite throwing up on the bench in the fourth quarter.
``I thought Ron did a good job. He played a really solid overall game,'' coach Eric Musselman said. ``I was impressed with Kevin Martin. At first we didn't know if he was even going to be able to play.''
While Artest is averaging 16.1 points and 7.0 rebounds, Maggette is scoring 14.8 points per game - his lowest average since the 2001-02 season.
Sacramento has won all 14 matchups with Los Angeles since a 112-107 road loss on Jan. 18, 2003. The Kings won 93-80 on Nov. 28 in the lone meeting this season.
Artest led the way with 28 points and eight rebounds for Sacramento, which is well aware of its success against its California rival.
``It's one of those little streaks,'' Kings center Brad Miller said after the game. ``Some of us have been here for all but one game in it. When you do well against a team, you kind of take pride in keeping it going.''
The Clippers played that game without an injured Sam Cassell and the point guard could be out again. Cassell missed Wednesday's 100-77 win over Boston due to a chronic case of plantar fasciitis in his left heel.
The injury has forced him to miss four of the last eight games and has limited him to just 58 minutes of playing time during that stretch.
Los Angeles didn't miss Cassell on Wednesday, scoring 100 points for only the second time in 11 games. Elton Brand and Tim Thomas each had 25 points for the Clippers, who held an opponent below 80 points for the second time this season.
The Clippers, seeking consecutive wins for the first time since Dec. 3-5, have two home games to close out the month before starting a six-game road trip in the new year.
``Our team's been really struggling, so we needed a win,'' Maggette said. ``We're just trying to stay afloat. We've got a couple more games at home before we take a long road trip, so hopefully we can do some damage.''
By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us
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