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James’ Career Night Not Enough As Kings Miss Postseason For 15th Straight Year

Credit: USATSI

Sacramento led by nine points late, but Memphis would respond to eliminate the Kings from Play-In contention

For about 30 minutes, a feeling crept into the minds of some Sacramento Kings fans–a feeling that had not been felt in days, weeks or even months during this season.

That feeling was hope.

Moments after the 10th-seeded San Antonio Spurs dropped a close game to the New York Knicks to keep Sacramento alive in the Play-In race, the Kings took a nine-point lead with just over eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s contest against the Memphis Grizzlies.

While Sacramento’s inspiring play from a group of unlikely contributors got themselves in a position to stay alive in the Play-In race for one more day, the Grizzlies would end the game on a 25-11 win to defeat the Kings by a final of 116-110 at FedEx Forum.

With the loss, Sacramento (31-39) is eliminated from playoff contention for the 15th-straight season, tying an NBA record set by the Los Angeles Clippers franchise (1976-1991).

Sacramento’s starting backcourt would burst out of the gates on fire, with both Delon Wright and Buddy Hield getting into a rhythm early.

Wright scored a game-high 11 points in the first quarter, while Buddy Hield drilled three three-pointers to keep the Kings within four heading into the second quarter. Sacramento hit seven three-pointers in the first quarter to keep pace with an aggressive Grizzlies team.

The story of the second quarter would be Justin James, who would head into the half with a career-high-tying 16 points on six-of-nine shooting from the field to lead the Kings to a 60-59 lead at the half.

In the third quarter, Memphis would go on a run to lead by eight points before James and the Kings cut the deficit to 89-83 heading to the fourth quarter.

Coinciding with the New York Knicks slim 102-98 win over the 10th-seed San Antonio Spurs, Sacramento exploded for a 13-2 run to take a 99-91 lead with 8:10 remaining in regulation.

The fun would stop shortly after, however, as the Grizzlies would go on to outscore the Kings 25-11 for the remainder of the game to end the game and officially burst the team’s chances of qualifying for the Play-In tournament.

A closing group of Delon Wright, Buddy Hield, Chimezie Metu, Louis King and Justin James was exciting to watch, with James and Metu specifically showing out for career-high performances. Although the team was able to keep it together for most of the night, Memphis was able to capitalize on each Sacramento mistake made down the stretch.

Key word: Experience.

As another season with no postseason appearance is added into the record books, the Kings have some pieces that they are getting a strong look at as they weigh their options for next season.

Expect head coach Luke Walton to give the likes of James, Metu, King & Jahmi’us Ramsey heavy minutes over the final two games against Memphis and Utah this weekend.

Rounding out the box score

Justin James was playing out of his mind on Thursday night, as the young guard finished with a career-high 31 points on 12-of-17 from the field and four-of-five from three-point land.

Coming into action against Memphis, the 24-year-old’s career-high was 16 points.

Chimezie Metu finished Thursday’s game with a career-high of his own, scoring 17 points on six-of-16 shooting from the field to go along with five rebounds, two assists and a steal over 34 minutes.

Metu also knocked down four triples on 10 attempts in the loss.

Buddy Hield and Terence Davis each scored 16 points in the loss, as Hield is now just eight triples away from Peja Stojakovic’s franchise record of 1,70 made three-point field goals.

Delon Wright added 15 points, four rebounds and eight assists while Damian Jones added six points, five rebounds and four blocks to round out the team’s key contributors.

Injury Updates

  • Richaun Holmes exited Thursday night’s game in the second quarter due to knee soreness and would not return. He is considered day-to-day.
  • De’Aaron Fox (health & safety protocols) missed his 11th-straight game on Thursday night and is unlikely to play again this season.
  • Harrison Barnes (adductor strain) missed his ninth-straight game and is unlikely to play again this season.
  • Marvin Bagley III (right groin tightness) missed his second-straight game after posting 15.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game on 51-percent shooting from the field over six games in his return from a fractured hand.
  • Tyrese Haliburton was inactive due to a hyperextended knee and is out for the remainder of the regular season.
  • Robert Woodard II was inactive vs Memphis due to back soreness.

Coming Up

The Kings and Grizzlies will face off on Friday night to complete a back-to-back set at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tennessee.

It will be the final road game of the season for Sacramento, who will return home on Sunday night to play their season finale at Golden 1 Center against the Utah Jazz.

Be sure to tune into Sports 1140 KHTK for full coverage of Friday night’s game vs Memphis, with pregame coverage starting at 3:00pm PST prior to a 6:00pm PST tip-off.

Upcoming Kings Schedule

  • May 14 @ Memphis Grizzlies
  • May 16 vs Utah Jazz

—-End of 2020-21 regular season—-