After officials whistled Sacramento's Francisco Garcia for a technical foul for a late push that sent Paul into the basket's padding, Cousins shoved Griffin amid a small scrum that broke out under the hoop in the first quarter. They pushed and pulled each other for a rebound on the next possession, exchanging words nose to nose, and officials talked to each privately during a timeout.
Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro sat Griffin the first 7:30 of the second quarter, and Martin and Reggie Evans — players who've carved out careers with punishing plays — led a defensive charge that stymied Sacramento and Cousins. Los Angeles outscored the Kings 17-7 to begin the period, opening a 44-30 lead with most of its stars on the bench.
Sacramento answered with 12 straight points behind a flurry of foul shots as officials tried to keep the physical play from getting out of control. Paul and Griffin returned, and the Clippers pushed ahead 48-42 at halftime.
Cousins picked up his fourth foul reaching in against Griffin with 10:49 remaining in the third quarter, relegating Sacramento's big man — who has been surging since Smart took over for the fired Paul Westphal after a 2-5 start — to the bench until 4:35 left in the fourth. Los Angeles built a 65-54 lead at one point during that span.
"I thought it got a little bit physical there," Del Negro said. "But Blake did a really good job of keeping his composure."
NOTES: Clippers G Mo Williams sat out with a sprained left big toe. Williams hopes to play Saturday night when the Clippers host Sacramento in Los Angeles. ... The Kings played without G Marcus Thornton (bruised left calf) and reserve F John Salmons (sore right hip) for the second straight game.
Follow Antonio Gonzalez at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP
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