SACRAMENTO KINGS

Kings fall to Pelicans, get locked into Play-In Tournament

Apr 11, 2024, 9:40 PM | Updated: 9:54 pm

(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Sacramento Kings’ hopes of avoiding the NBA Play-In Tournament were dashed on Thursday night.

For the fifth time this season, the Kings fell victim to the New Orleans Pelicans, who completed a 5-0 head-to-head series sweep with a 135-123 win at Golden 1 Center.

Despite the disappointment of being eliminated from direct playoff contention, Sacramento (45-35) still has a shot at redemption. They will now focus on securing the seventh or eighth seed in the upcoming Play-In Tournament that is set to begin on Tuesday, April 16th.

The Kings will end the night in possession of the eighth seed, although they are currently tied with the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors in the standings.

Sacramento owns the tie-breaker over the Warriors and Lakers, but will likely need to win one or both of their remaining games–Friday against Phoenix and Sunday against Portland–to ensure they stay out of the single-elimination nine-vs-ten-seed matchup.

Kings vs. Pelicans Recap & Takeaways

It’s no secret that the New Orleans Pelicans have owned the Sacramento Kings this season, but on a night like Thursday, it was fair to expect the Beam Team to show up for a near-must-win game… right?

The Pelicans entered play looking to inch closer to securing the sixth seed in the West, and they asserted themselves very early by blowing things open while fans were still finding their seats.

New Orleans’ top-five-ranked defense flexed its muscles early by holding the Kings’ offense in check while jumping out to a 34-11 lead during the first 9:30 of action. With the game essentially hanging in the balance just ten minutes in, De’Aaron Fox and Sacramento hit back before things got especially ugly.

Fox (12 first-quarter points) helped the Kings cut the 23-point deficit in half during the final two minutes of the first–and the All-NBA guard didn’t stop there.

Behind 17 first-half points from Fox, an 11-point start for Harrison Barnes (the most points he had scored in seven games), and a ten-point second quarter from Domantas Sabonis, Sacramento trimmed the 23-point deficit to just six points as the Pelicans took a 64-58 lead into the break.

New Orleans star forward Zion Williamson had a quiet first half (eight points) and exited the game before the break due to a hand injury, but returned to the floor with force in the third period.

The former first-overall pick poured in 17 points during the third quarter while the Pelicans held off a big quarter from Barnes (11 points) as the Kings would head to the fourth quarter staring at a nine-point deficit.

If Sacramento wanted a chance at erasing New Orleans’ lead and pulling out a win, they would have to find a way to slow down a torrid Pelicans offense–but that wouldn’t happen down the final stretch.

Three-point shooting has been a hot topic of conversation surrounding the Kings lately, and Sacramento fell short on both sides of the long ball during Thursday’s loss.

The Pelicans started hot from beyond the arc and never slowed down, finishing the night 22-of-40 (55%) from downtown. A flat Kings defense stood by and watched the game slip away behind Trey Murphy III, CJ McCollum, and Jose Alvarado, who combined to shoot 19-of-30 (63%) from beyond the arc.

Sacramento made their runs on Friday, including a late push that brought them within eight points with over two minutes remaining.

While the Kings’ offense did its part against the Pelicans (123 points on 54/42/75 shooting), the defense acted as a revolving door and was unable to string together extended periods of stops as New Orleans continued to maintain an eight-to-ten-point lead throughout crunch time.

The early struggles came back to bite Sacramento in the end, as the 34-11 opening stretch loomed large as the Kings played catch-up for the remainder of the night.

Losing to the Pelicans might have ended the pursuit of an automatic playoff bid, but Sacramento won’t have time to dwell on the defeat as they will host the Phoenix Suns in less than 24 hours.

A loss to the Suns could push the Kings into the nine-vs-ten game–a single-elimination showdown that could put the entire 2023-24 season on the line.

“What we’re going through right now is invaluable,” head coach Mike Brown said of the Play-In berth.

“We all should be embracing this, 100 percent. I go home and bang my head against the wall just like everyone else with these losses. But to be able to go through this, especially right now in our second year with this group, at the end of the day, this is where we are, and let’s fricken go get it.”

Notes

  • Harrison Barnes finished the night with 22 points (9/15 FG). The Kings fell to 18-6 when Barnes scores 15+ points this season.
  • De’Aaron Fox scored 33 points (11/18 FG), passed out eight assists, and swiped two steals over 41 minutes. Fox, who turned his ankle late in the game, told reporters that he will “be alright” and added that the injury isn’t as bad as his early-season sprain that sidelined him for five games.
  • This season, the Sacramento Kings have allowed 13 teams to score 130+ points. The New Orleans Pelicans are the only team that has done so twice.

Injury Updates

Malik Monk (right knee) will be re-evaluated in three 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.

When is the next Sacramento Kings game?

Sacramento will play the second night of a back-to-back against the Phoenix Suns–another team that is vying for a top-six spot in the Western Conference standings.

The Kings and Suns are tied at 2-2 in their regular season series, meaning that whoever wins on Friday will secure the tie-breaker. Sacramento will enter the night two games behind Phoenix in the standings and in a three-way tie with the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors for the eighth seed.

Be sure to tune in right here on Sactown Sports 1140 for all of your Kings vs. Suns coverage, beginning at 5:30 PM PST on Game Night before a 7:00 PM PST tip-off from Golden 1 Center.

Upcoming Schedule

  • Friday, April 12th – Sacramento Kings vs. Phoenix Suns – 7:00 PM PST
  • Sunday, April 14th – Sacramento Kings vs. Portland Trail Blazers – 12:30 PM PST (End of regular season)

Postseason Schedule

  • Tuesday, April 16th-Friday, April 19th – NBA Play-In Tournament (Teams & matchups TBD)
  • Saturday, April 20th – NBA Playoffs begin

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