The Sacramento Kings will continue their quest to end their 14-year playoff drought when the 2019-20 NBA season resumes less than month from now in Orlando.
Sitting just 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, the goal for the Kings is simple: win. Sacramento will have to stay within four games of Memphis, while beating out the Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns for the No. 9 seed, in order to qualify for the play-in games.
We don’t know how the nearly five-month layoff will affect the Kings, who had won 13 out of 20 games prior to the shutdown. Sacramento has eight games left on the schedule, which goes like this:
- vs. San Antonio Spurs on Friday, July 31 (8:00 p.m. ET)
- vs. Orlando Magic on Sunday, August 2 (6:00 p.m. ET)
- vs. Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday, August 4 (2:30 p.m. ET)
- vs. New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday, August 6 (1:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV)
- vs. Brooklyn Nets on Friday, August 7 (5:00 p.m. ET)
- vs. Houston Rockets on Sunday, August 9 (8:00 p.m. ET)
- vs. New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday, August 11 (9:00 p.m. ET, TNT)
- vs. Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday, August 13 (TBD, TBD)
The Kings will realistically need to win a minimum of five games to get into the play-in round. It’s easy to look at the schedule and realize the important of the two matchups against the Pelicans. New Orleans beat Sacramento 117-115 in the only contest of the season between the two teams. The Pelicans will be tougher with Zion Williamson in the lineup, but if the Kings can win both — or at the minimum split the two games — they should be in a decent position to challenge for the ninth spot.
Other than the New Orleans games, there are three others that stand out as must-wins. The opener against the San Antonio Spurs is massive. The Spurs will be without All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who is out for the remainder of the season after surgery. Surprisingly, San Antonio was slightly more efficient with Aldridge off the court before the hiatus, The Spurs were 4.8 points better per 100 possessions with Aldridge on the bench, but this is still a matchup the Kings should win.
Sacramento’s second game against Orlando is also a big one. The Magic have two more wins, albeit playing in a much weaker conference, but their underlying numbers are comparable to the Kings. Sacramento’s NETRTG is just 0.5 points worse than Orlando’s. The Kings are slightly better on the offensive end, while the Magic have a narrow advantage defensively. Sacramento is the more efficient shooting team, with its true shooting percentage 2.3% better than Orlando, per NBA.com
We have talked about the importance of pace for the Kings during the restart. The Magic give up the third-fewest fast break points in the league, so they will try to use their transition defense to slow down Kings star De’Aaron Fox. Sacramento needs to force this contest to turn into a run-and-gun affair, which features a lot of 3-point shooting. Orlando ranks 25th in 3-point percentage, so if the Kings can turn this into a high-scoring contest, they should have enough firepower to outlast the Magic.
The third must-win comes against the Nets. Brooklyn will be without DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie and Wilson Chandler, in addition to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Without three key players, there is no way the Nets should be able to play with the Kings.
If, and it is a big IF, Sacramento can take care of business in these five games, it will be in a great spot to get at least the No. 9 seed. With the Los Angeles Lakers being in the driver’s seat for the top seed in the Western Conference, they may elect to rest their star players in the finale, which obviously helps the Kings.
What do you think will be the Kings’ record in these eight games?