Ever since De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III went down with their respective injuries, the Sacramento Kings could’ve folded. They could’ve folded easily. Heck, even Bogdan Bogdanovic has had issues staying healthy recently which has kept him out of some games.
Luke Walton’s first season as the head coach would’ve gotten off to a horrific start but not because he couldn’t coach (despite some questionable decisions so far), but because his team was riddled with injuries and the players needed to succeed in the Wild West weren’t available.
The Kings have done the opposite. In games since both Fox and Bagley were out, here’s what has went down:
- a two point loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on the road
- a one point win two days later to the Boston Celtics at home
- a one point loss to Boston on the road on a SEGABABA
- a double-digit comeback victory over the Denver Nuggets in overtime at home
- a win against the Dallas Mavericks on the road in which they had a lead of 20
- a buzzer beating win against the Houston Rockets on the road on a SEGABABA
If someone would’ve told me all this would happen without the likes of Fox and Bagley, I would’ve obviously denied it because nobody would've said that. Walton has this team playing hard every single night and even shortened the rotation to eight men for the last two games. You’d think with the problems that SEGABABA’s have given the Kings, that Walton would be inclined to use fresher legs, but he didn’t and it paid off.
But, and this is an important but, they’ve had blunders like all Kangz squads usually do:
- They came out flat for the fifth straight game against the Charlotte Hornets at home (Fox played).
- A loss to the Chicago Bulls at home who came in with a worse record. Buddy Hield admitted postgame that the Kings didn’t take the Bulls seriously enough.
- Blew a nine point lead with about 1:43 remaining against the San Antonio Spurs and lost in overtime.
You could arguably throw in the season opener blowout to Phoenix as well because no one expected that, but I don’t want to look into the first game of the season too much. All other losses have been fair given the circumstances.
If the Kings didn’t Kangz for these three games that they should’ve won, they’re sitting at 13-10 and tied for the 6th seed. But since I don’t want to play the “what if” game, this piece comes now because the Kings have a stretch of six games that is filled with games this team can win.
Sacramento isn’t in any position to start penciling in wins beforehand (or not give teams respect), but this is the upcoming stretch:
- vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (11-12)
- vs. New York Knicks (4-19)
- @ Golden State Warriors (5-20)
- @ Charlotte Hornets (9-16)
- @ Indiana Pacers (15-9)
- @ Memphis Grizzlies (7-16)
It’s not unreasonable to look at this and think a team can go 6-0 or 5-1 (because of Indiana but I’m not too high on them). Granted four of the games are on the road but the Kings just beat Houston and Dallas away from home and almost beat Boston. They’ve shown they can hang anywhere and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to against these opponents.
With the Western Conference not as strong as expected to begin the season, the Kings are presented with a massive opportunity to capitalize on these next six games and jump into the top eight. It’s all there for the taking.
We’ve seen Sacramento play down to their opponent way too frequently in recent memory and that has to stop. You take advantage now so you don’t have to play the “well if the Kings had won these games in December, they wouldn’t need to be doing x, y and z” game come February and onwards. It was a theme last season.
The Kings have competed with some of the league’s best and either won or lost closely. All the wins were legit, no flukes. There is no reason they can’t do the same against some of the league’s worst as they hope to end this playoff drought.