A Sacramento Kings Playoff Berth In 6 Easy Steps
The Sacramento Kings are in the thick of a playoff hunt with 25 games to go. The last time they made a jaunt into the second half with real playoff aspirations was more than a decade ago in 2006. They finished that season with 44 wins and the No. 8 seed. This year’s club is in a position to replicate that outcome with a 30-27 record and one game out of the final playoff spot as they open the second half.
It’s not a foregone conclusion though. Plenty of obstacles stand between the Kings and the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
Here are six things that have to happen if Sacramento is going to secure a playoff berth for the first time in 13 years:
1. Stay healthy
Good health has given the Kings the opportunity to stay in a rhythm for most of the season. Aside from the general bumps and bruises that come throughout an NBA season, only Marvin Bagley has missed significant time. The rookie sat out 11 consecutive games early in the season with a knee contusion, and he’s missed 14 games overall. Sacramento has been relatively healthy aside from that, and continuing that trend down the stretch will be imperative to a playoff push.
2. Beat teams above .500
This is perhaps the most obvious step, but it’s also the most difficult. Sacramento is just 8-20 against teams with winning records this season. They open the second half with six of their first 10 games against teams over the .500 mark, and 13 of their final 25. They simply have to peel off a few victories against winning squads if they’re going to get into the mid-40s and make the playoffs.
3. A road turnaround
Sacramento is a respectable 11-16 on the road this season. A few games under .500 in road games isn’t bad given the youth and inexperience on the roster. They’ll have to be better down the stretch though if they want to play in the postseason. The Kings are just 2-8 in their last 10 road games, including losses to the Suns, Lakers and Hornets – all teams with sub-.500 records. 14 of their final 25 contests are away from Golden 1 Center, and getting their season road record back up around that .500 mark will be huge in their race for the No. 8 seed.
4. An LA collapse
This is out of the Kings’ hands, but it’s still an important factor. The Clippers are a game ahead of Sacramento, while the Lakers are two games behind. Doc Rivers’ club is playing extremely well, even after they dealt star forward Tobias Harris at the deadline. Playoff mode has been activated for LeBron James (whatever that means), and the best version of James is liable to drag the sulking remnants of a once-promising Lakers roster to 10-game winning streak and a stranglehold on the eighth seed. The Clippers lose a first-round pick if they make the playoffs, so an informal tank job by them may be coming. LA’s other team might just be too worn down from Anthony Davis trade rumors to ever make an inspired push for the final playoff spot. Both of those things coming true would greatly buoy the Kings’ postseason chances.
5. Close games out
Too many wins have gotten away from the Kings this season. Blowing a late lead in November or December is easy to shake off because of the bevy of chances to make it up throughout the season. Coughing up a sure victory in late February or March can be backbreaking. One demoralizing loss at this juncture could derail Sacramento’s playoff hopes, especially if it comes against one of those above .500 teams. The Kings have to show they’ve learned from early season mistakes and take the opportunity to step on the gas when they’re up big in the fourth quarter.
6. Keep having fun
This sounds cheesy, but it’s vital considering where the Kings are in their development. Enjoyment has been a hallmark of this year’s Sacramento Kings. They play a fast, fun brand of basketball that permeates throughout the roster from players on the court to the ones on the bench. The Kings are at their best when they’re getting out and running, shooting threes and playing a fast, swarming defense. That has to continue in earnest over the last two months. They can’t rest, they can’t take a night off, and they can’t tighten up as the lights get brighter. If they continue playing the style of basketball that put them in a position to chase the playoffs, it should be enough to carry them the rest of the way.