The Sacramento Kings have been up and down all season. The team went 7-1 between Jan. 22 and Feb. 7 and then followed that up by losing nine games in a row.
It looked like the Kings would fall out of the Western Conference playoff race, but they had a resurgence with a 7-1 stretch that got them back into the hunt for a spot in the postseason.
Unfortunately, Sacramento has lost three in a row since, including an ugly 21-point loss to a depleted Los Angeles Lakers squad. The good news is that the Kings are still very much in it, only trailing the Golden State Warriors by a game for the second play-in spot.
Sacramento’s upcoming schedule will give it a great opportunity to make up some ground. The Kings will play six of their next nine games against teams sitting outside the top 10 of their respective conferences.
Here is who they play over their next nine games:
Sacramento has to win all four games against Minnesota and Detroit, the bottom seeds in each conference. The matchups against the Jazz and Suns will be difficult, but the Kings have enough firepower to keep up with those teams.
Head coach Luke Walton needs to continue to preach defense to his group. Sacramento was only giving up 111.1 points per game during its 7-1 stretch but has regressed as of late again, surrendering 121.3 points during the three-game losing streak. Simply put, if the Kings continue to struggle to protect their own end, they will miss the playoffs for a league-high 15th consecutive year.
The schedule makers set up some tasty matches over the final 22 games. Sacramento will play a combined five games against the Warriors, Mavericks, and Memphis Grizzlies during the schedule's final stretch. Those three teams are all currently in play-in position ahead of the Kings.
De’Aaron Fox continues to be one of the better point guards in the league. Tyrese Haliburton, Harrison Barnes, and Richaun Holmes are doing their best to keep Sacramento in the hunt.
The bench looks different after general manager Monte McNair made some moves at the NBA trade deadline. Newcomers Terence Davis, Delon Wright and Moe Harkless are all getting plenty of opportunities to showcase their talents to the coaching staff. The trio is each playing more than 15 minutes per game since being acquired and gives Walton some more flexibility with his rotations. Davis looked especially solid in the loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, when he dropped a career-high 27 points.
The Kings are right there and still in a position to make a run down the stretch. They have the 16th toughest remaining strength of schedule, per Tankathon, but if they can pull off a few upsets, we should see Sacramento playing some meaningful games late in the schedule.