The Kings might still be alive in the play-in.
Three weeks ago, Sacramento was at the end of its second nine-game losing streak of the year, falling as many six games back of the tenth seed in the Western Conference. A week later, De’Aaron Fox entered the health and safety protocols, and it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the Kings would extend their playoff drought to 15 years.
Instead, the team has powered through with Fox, and now also without Tyrese Haliburton and Harrison Barnes, and won four in a row, refusing to go out quietly. The Kings have also gotten an assist from the San Antonio Spurs, the team currently occupying the No. 10 seed. The Spurs are also without their starting guard Derrick White, who has missed the last five games and won’t play for the remainder of the season. San Antonio is winless in White’s absence, and has injected some intrigue into what once was a cut-and-dry play-in race.
The Kings are currently 2.5 games back of the Spurs. With a win Friday, they would move to within 1.5 games with five to play. More importantly, they would take control of the tiebreaker by virtue of winning the season series.
Where: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento
When: Friday, May 7 at 7:00 p.m. PT
How to watch/listen: NBC Sports California, KHTK Sports 1140 AM
Opposing perspective: Pounding the Rock
Projected Starting Lineups
Kings (29-37): Delon Wright, Buddy Hield, Moe Harkless, Marvin Bagley III, Richaun Holmes
Spurs (31-34): Dejounte Murray, Devin Vassell, DeMar DeRozan, Keldon Johnson, Jakob Poeltl
Kings: Harrison Barnes — DOUBTFUL; Chimezie Metu — QUESTIONABLE; De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, Robert Woodard II — OUT
Spurs: Trey Lyles, Derrick White — OUT
In order to win, Marvin Bagley III will have to be the best player on the court. He has averaged 19.5 points and eight rebounds per game since returning from his hand injury and was absolutely dominant against Indiana. He’ll have an opportunity to exert a similar advantage against a Spurs team with a small frontcourt, as 6’5 Keldon Johnson will be Bagley’s primary defender.
San Antonio does a good job of defending the paint with one of the best (and most underrated) rim protectors in the game, Jakob Poeltl. That will make it incumbent upon the Kings to hit threes. In their win over the Spurs, they had 18 makes from deep. The next game, in a loss, that figure dropped to 11.
More than anything, the Kings just have to be ready to go. They’ve crashed and burned when presented with real tests since the bubble last year. Yes, they have less talent at their disposal now that their two best creators are out, but so often in these cases, they haven’t brought the fight. Hopefully, energy isn’t the problem Friday.