With just one game remaining in the season, the Sacramento Kings are at the center of playoff implications for the bottom of the Western Conference playoff race. Unfortunately, it's only to decide if the Houston Rockets or Utah Jazz become the 8th seed and not themselves, as the Kings are locked into a bottom 10 record for the umpteenth year in a row.
This should have been the year the Kings were able to break through. The West hasn't been this wide open in over a decade. Injuries ravaged certain teams and others (like the Rockets) fell off from the previous year.
This final game could have really mattered for the Kings. They only needed to win 7 more games for that spot to be in play. I'm sure there were at least 7 games the Kings let get away from them. Let's go through the schedule in order (clicking on a game will take you to the box score of that game from basketball-reference):
The Kings were up by 17 points heading into the fourth quarter. Kemba Walker exploded for 21 points in the quarter and nearly won the game in regulation before Rudy Gay tied up and sent it to overtime. By then it was too late, as Charlotte had all the momentum.
It's hard to say any game against a team as good as the Thunder was one the Kings needed to win, but the Kings were up by 6 points with 2:32 left in the game. They ended up not scoring the remainder of the game.
No Cousins for the Kings in this game, but everyone else was healthy. Likely Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns was held to just 7 points. Minnesota got to the line more and got more second chances.
Washington was dealing with so many injuries at the time that they only were able to field 8 guys all game and in reality only played 7 (DeJuan Blair played for less than a minute). The Kings on the other hand were at full strength. Marcin Gortat would go on to score 27 points on 12-19 shooting and Garrett Temple added 23. Everyone on the Wizards (aside from Blair) scored in double figures except rookie Kelly Oubre who scored 8.
It's clear the Trail Blazers are a better team than many gave them credit for at the beginning of the season, but this was a golden opportunity for the Kings to beat a Portland team without Damian Lillard. Cousins had 36 points but his supporting cast failed him; Rudy Gay had a stinker of a game with 7 points on an abysmal 2 of 12 from the field and Sacramento's bench was outscored 42 to 23. To make matters worse, the Kings only scored 14 points in the deciding fourth quarter.
There's not much to say here. The 76ers currently have 10 wins. They currently have 3 road wins. The Kings absolutely blew this one.
Shit, I'm not even in 2016 yet and I'm already almost at 7...
How do you lose a game up 7 with 1:20 left in double overtime? This is how:
Let's keep going for fun.
Even more heartbreaking of a loss than the one in Dallas, this is the game that I think sent the Kings season into a tailspin. DeMarcus Cousins scored an arena record 56 points, but the Kings couldn't seal the deal and the Hornets kept hitting three after three (they finished 20 of 44 from beyond the arc compared to 7 of 23 for Sacramento). Troy Daniels hit 8 of 11 threes on the night including this ridiculous game winner.
The Pelicans definitely had Sacramento's number this season, but this was the Kings best opportunity. New Orleans was without Anthony Davis, Tyreke Evans, and Eric Gordon. The Pelicans instead got off to a hot start, particularly Ryan Anderson, who scored 30 of his 36 points in the first half alone. The Kings never recovered.
Giving up 26 points to Brook Lopez and 27 points to Joe Johnson? Understandable. 23 points to Bojan Bogdanovic? A little less so. 17 points for Donald Sloan? Come on now.
After this point in the season it gets much less clear. The Kings did go on to lose to the Timberwolves and Pelicans a combined four more times after this though, both teams who will end up with worse records. What is clear is that the Kings bungled multiple opportunities to win games and be in playoff contention. Instead they'll be on the outside looking in... again.