End of the Line: Kings lose to Pelicans (again) to end season

Apr 19, 2024, 9:20 PM | Updated: 9:22 pm

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - APRIL 19: Larry Nance Jr. #22 of the New Orleans Pelicans shoots the ball ...

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

When we look back at the 2023-24 Sacramento Kings, one true Achilles heel will be remembered:

The New Orleans Pelicans.

New Orleans defeated the Kings for the sixth time in as many head-to-head matchups this season, this time by securing a 105-98 win on Friday night that eliminated Sacramento from the postseason and punched the Pelicans’ tickets for the NBA Playoffs.

No team had gone 0-6 against a single opponent before the playoffs since 1994—until now. The Kings’ sixth loss to New Orleans will have an extra sting as Sacramento misses out on a second straight playoff berth by one game.

A roller-coaster season has come to an end, as the Kings will head into the offseason looking to upgrade its roster and retain Sixth Man of the Year contender Malik Monk in free agency.

Kings vs. Pelicans Recap & Takeaways

Sacramento’s defense picked up right where it left off from Tuesday’s win over Golden State, forcing New Orleans into six early turnovers on Friday night.

The Kings scored 11 points off the Pelicans’ errors, while De’Aaron Fox’s hot start (11 points in the first quarter) helped Sacramento pull ahead by seven, but New Orleans erased the deficit by the time the second period was underway.

Then, things unraveled for the Kings.

A stagnant Sacramento offense searched for answers while an aggressive Pelicans defense turned the tables, forcing the Kings into nine turnovers before the end of the first half. New Orleans outscored Sacramento 32-20 in the paint during the first 24 minutes of play, while the Kings shot five-of-20 (25%) from three-point range.

Sacramento also had more turnovers than assists (eight) at the break and missed four of their ten attempts from the free-throw line.

The Pelicans led by as many as 13 points during the first half before a late burst from Fox (18 first-half points) trimmed the deficit to nine points at the break.

If Sacramento wanted to extend its season, it would need to find a rhythm on offense and slow down a red-hot New Orleans bench (beat the Kings 21-4 in bench points during the first half) during the final two periods.

Fox continued to provide for Sacramento on the offensive end as play entered the second half, but the Pelicans stretched its lead to 14 points–their largest of the game.

New Orleans continued to attack the paint, while the Kings finally found the bottom of the net from deep (four-of-eight during the third quarter) thanks to hot shooting from Fox and Davion Mitchell, who knocked down two triples during the period.

Sacramento entered the fourth quarter trailing by ten points, but if the wheels hadn’t fallen off already, they came flying off during the opening stretch of the final period.

The Kings missed 13 of their first 14 field goal attempts as the Pelicans pushed their lead to 20 points, and the game was all but over before the midway point of the fourth. Outside of Fox’s 35 points and Sabonis’ 24 points–along with 14 rebounds and seven assists–Sacramento had no go-to option as the offense sputtered down the final stretch.

In the end of a game that the Kings lost by just seven points, Sacramento finished the night 36-of-88 (40%) from the field, 11-of-41 (27%) from three-point range, and 15-of-22 (68%) from the free-throw line.

Entering play on Friday, the Kings shot 44 percent from the field and 33 percent from deep over five games (all losses) against New Orleans this season. If Sacramento had matched that output, they likely would have had enough offensive firepower to win the game.

The Kings’ bench was outscored 34-12 on Friday, another indicator that Sacramento lacked the firepower it needed to get past the Pelicans as the injured Malik Monk sat on the sideline.

New Orleans benefited from a strong performance out of Brandon Ingram (24 points) as their offense finished the night shooting 52 percent from the field.

Now, the offseason, where general manager Monte McNair will look to retain Monk in free agency and upgrade a roster that hasn’t seen many changes since the summer of 2022.

Injury Updates

Malik Monk (right knee) will be re-evaluated in two weeks after suffering a right knee MCL sprain.

Kevin Huerter (left dislocated shoulder and labral tear) will miss the remainder of the season after having surgery and is slated to be ready for the start of the 2024-25 season.

NBA Offseason Schedule

  • Sunday, May 12 – NBA Draft Lottery
  • Wednesday, June 26-Thursday, June 27th – 2024 NBA Draft
  • Sunday, June 30th – Free Agent negotiating window opens (3 PM PST)
  • Saturday, July 6th – Free Agents can officially sign contracts
  • July 12-22nd – Las Vegas Summer League
  • July 27-August 11th – 2024 Olympic Games
  • Friday, September 27th – NBA training camps begin

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