On May 6, 2006, the best stretch in Sacramento Kings history came to an end. The franchise missed the playoffs 11 out of 12 years leading up to the 1998-99 season, which kickstarted an eight-year run of postseason appearances.
The Kings overcame inconsistency and chemistry issues through the season to get into the playoffs. Sacramento won nine of its final 11 games to finish the 2005-06 with a 44-38 record, good for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. Their reward was a first-round matchup against the defending champion San Antonio Spurs, who finished the regular season with 63 wins.
Going into series as a big underdog, Sacramento looked overmatched in games one and two, losing both on the road in San Antonio. The series shifted to Arco Arena for Game 3, which produced a wild ending.
With the Kings leading 92-90 with less than a minute left, Spurs guard Manu Ginobilli had a 3-pointer to give the Spurs a one-point lead. Metta World Peace turned the ball over on the next possession, so Sacramento had to rely on its defense to get a stop and have one final shot to win the game.
Mike Bibby stole the ball off Ginobilli with just under five seconds to go and found Kevin Martin in transition for this crazy finish.
Sacramento took care of business at home in Game 4, before losing Game 5 109-98 in San Antonio.
With their backs against the wall, the Kings hung tough with the Spurs early, but after World Peace injured his ankle late in the second half, San Antonio went on a 5-0 run before the break to take a 45-38 lead.
Although World Peace returned for the third-quarter, the Spurs hit three 3-pointers in 1:18 early in the frame and went on a 16-3 run to take a 61-41 lead and never looked back. Sacramento was down 16 by the end of the third, and eventually went on to lose 105-83, ending their season.
The aftermath of this series loss is what sticks out. Adelman’s contract expired and despite making the playoffs for eight-straight seasons, he wasn’t brought back. Forward Bonzi Wells, who averaged 23.2 points per game in the series wound up turning down a five-year offer to stay with the team and signed with the Houston Rockets for much less late in the offseason.
The Kings had some talented players returning with Bibby, World Peace, Brad Miller, Kevin Martin and Shareef Abdur-Rahim under contract for 2017, but under new coach Eric Mussleman, the team sputtered to a 33-49 record the following season.
Sacramento hasn’t been back to the playoffs since. Uncertainty with ownership plagued the franchise for a few seasons. Current majority owner Vivek Randive took over in 2013, but a series of missed draft picks and questionable decision-making from management and ownership has resulted in no playoff basketball being played in a city with one of the loudest fan bases.
Although they have an outside chance, hopefully the Kings will have the opportunity to qualify for the 2019-20 NBA playoffs whenever the season resumes.
What do you remember most about the 2005-06 team? Did you want Adelman to return or was it time for the team to move on?