SACRAMENTO KINGS

Sacramento Kings, in need of win, host the tail-spinning Utah Jazz

Mar 31, 2024, 5:30 AM | Updated: 9:09 am

John Collins #20 of the Utah Jazz shoots over Keegan Murray #13 of the Sacramento Kings during the ...

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH - OCTOBER 25: John Collins #20 of the Utah Jazz shoots over Keegan Murray #13 of the Sacramento Kings during the first half of a game at Delta Center on October 25, 2023 in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

The Sacramento Kings land a much-needed rare soft spot in their closing schedule when they host the tail-spinning Utah Jazz on Sunday night.

Consecutive home losses to the Dallas Mavericks have dropped the Kings (42-31) into the heart of the shuffle for play-in position in the Western Conference playoff race.

Sacramento will take the court Sunday in the eighth spot in the West, a half-game behind the No. 7 Phoenix Suns (43-31) and 1 1/2 games ahead of the No. 9 Los Angeles Lakers (41-33).

The Suns are off until Monday, when they visit the New Orleans Pelicans, while the Lakers visit the Brooklyn Nets earlier in the day Sunday.

The Kings are now halfway through a gauntlet of seven likely playoff teams in an eight-game stretch. They opened the sequence with wins over the Orlando Magic and the Philadelphia 76ers, before the twin killing at the hands of the Mavericks.

After seeing the Jazz (29-45), who have lost eight in a row and have been eliminated from playoff contention, Sacramento will complete a five-game homestand against the Los Angeles Clippers, then open a four-game trip at New York and Boston.

Sacramento will be without guard Malik Monk, who will be sidelined four to six weeks with a sprained MCL in his right knee, according to multiple reports. Monk was hurt when he collided with Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks in the first quarter of the Kings’ 107-103 loss on Friday night.

The timing of the injury means Monk, one of the leading candidates for NBA Sixth Man of the Year, will miss the rest of the regular season.

Even before Friday’s loss, the Kings received bad news when it was disclosed that starting guard Kevin Huerter would be lost for the rest of the season with a torn labrum in his left shoulder.

Kings coach Mike Brown attempted to soften the blow by saying Huerter might still help the team’s cause even while injured.

“Him talking to guys, whether it’s on the bench, in practice, shootaround or off the floor, it’s going to be huge,” Brown noted. “He’s going to be around as much as he can.”

The injury occurred March 18 in a win over the Memphis Grizzlies.

Keon Ellis has moved into Huerter’s starting spot, and while he’s averaged 9.7 points in six games since, it’s been Keegan Murray who has taken up a majority of the scoring slack, going for 22 and 23 points that stretch in which he’s averaged 16.7 points on 51-percent shooting.

The Kings have had little trouble handling the Jazz in the teams’ two meetings, winning by 16 on opening night and then 21 in a December rematch. Murray had a career-high 47 points — 14 more than he’s scored in any other game – in the 125-104 home win in December.

While Sacramento will be enjoying a break in the schedule, the Jazz get no such thing. Eleven of their past 12 games have been against playoff contenders, and their final eight will be against teams currently in the fight.

Utah is coming off a winless three-game homestand against Dallas, the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets, but were competitive in each defeat, falling by a combined 18 points.

Impressed with the effort in a 101-100 home loss to the Rockets on Friday, Jazz coach Will Hardy insists his team won’t be a pushover for teams with postseason aspirations.

“That’s the intensity, physicality that we have to play with every single game,” he observed. “If our team can continue to channel that energy level, that level of physicality, we’re gonna be just fine.. … I was very, very pleased with the effort tonight.

“I think that’s a representation from an intensity standpoint of who we want to be.”

Thank you for reading SactownSports.com. Follow us on Twitter and Google News, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

–Field Level Media

Newsletter

Sacramento Kings

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 12: Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jordan McLaughlin (6) during an NBA basket...

Frankie Cartoscelli

Jordan McLaughlin says the Kings were ‘a perfect fit’ for him in free agency

Sacramento Kings guard Jordan McLaughlin sat down with The Drive Guys to discuss why he decided to join the Beam Team in free agency.

1 day ago

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 24: USC Trojans guard Boogie Ellis (5) during a college basketball game ...

Brenden Nunes

Drew Timme and Boogie Ellis reflect on their Summer League experience

After what's expected to be their final Summer League games, Boogie Ellis and Drew Timme reflected on their experiences with Sacramento.

1 day ago

LOS ANGELES, CA APRIL 05: Eric Musselman was named USC's men's basketball coach during an introduct...

Frankie Cartoscelli

Eric Musselman on the growth of Keon Ellis & Mason Jones

USC men's basketball head coach Eric Musselman joined The Drive Guys to discuss his new position and all things hoops!

2 days ago

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 15: Drew Timme #46 of the Sacramento Kings prepares to shoot a free throw duri...

Frankie Cartoscelli

Jerry Reynolds says Drew Timme plays with shades of a former King

Sacramento Kings legend Jerry Reynolds joined The Drive Guys to share his thoughts on NBA Summer League, Gonzaga product Drew Timme & more.

2 days ago

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 29: DeMar DeRozan #11 of the Chicago Bulls in action against the Brookly...

Brenden Nunes

Mike Brown speaks optimisticly about the addition of DeMar DeRozan

Sacramento Kings head coach Mike Brown spoke with reporters on record for the first time since the addition of DeMar DeRozan.

2 days ago

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 15: Colby Jones #20 of the Sacramento Kings signals during the game against th...

Frankie Cartoscelli

NBA Summer League: Kings unable to mount comeback vs. Wizards

The Sacramento Kings fell short to Alex Sarr and the Washington Wizards on Thursday at NBC Summer League in Las Vegas.

2 days ago

Sacramento Kings, in need of win, host the tail-spinning Utah Jazz