SACRAMENTO KINGS

Stockton Kings advance in G-League playoffs after win over Santa Cruz

Apr 5, 2024, 10:40 AM

Sacramento Kings assistant Lindsey Harding before the Sacramento Kings vs LA Clippers game on Decem...

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 01: Sacramento Kings assistant Lindsey Harding before the Sacramento Kings vs LA Clippers game on December 01, 2021, at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

(Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

After securing the best regular season record in the NBA G-League last season, the Stockton Kings lost their first postseason matchup and were looking to avenge that performance this year. Given the postseason features single-elimination matchups, Thursday night had the tense feel of a play-in game along with a lively crowd in Stockton Arena to cheer them along against the Santa Cruz Warriors.

“That first game, especially in single-elimination playoffs, is always a tough one,” Stockton head coach and G-League Coach of the Year Lindsey Harding said after Thursday night’s 112-109 victory.

Three players, Stanley Johnson (25), Deonte Burton (23), and Mason Jones (20), tallied 20 or more points, while Jalen Slawson added 19 on the night. The Stockton Kings forced Santa Cruz into 16 first-half turnovers, holding them to 45 points in the first 24 minutes of action.

Like the Sacramento group, Stockton takes pride in playing physical defense, featuring players who don’t hesitate to bring contagious energy to both ends of the floor.

“When they play that way, it’s fun,” Harding said. “And when we play fun, we’re really difficult to stop.”

Two-way player Mason Jones struggled in the first half, going into the locker room with two points, seven assists, and two turnovers on 1/6 shooting.

Yet, he came up big in the latter portions of the game, particularly as the game winded down. By the final buzzer, his stat line read 20 points and twelve assists on 5/16 from the field, including 2/9 from three and 7/7 from the free-throw line. The final number was crucial, as Jones was continually sent to the line in the final moments and managed to convert all of said looks.

“I just felt like, how I had been playing all night, I wasn’t living up to how I’d been playing all year and who I was supposed to be,” Jones said. “I just knew that I still had time to come through for my team, and that’s all I was thinking about, not letting my team down.”

Although there are a limited number of returning players from last season, there’s hope to revise the postseason process in 2023-24. With their win over Santa Cruz, the Stockton Kings have advanced to the Conference Finals, scheduled to be played in Stockton Arena at 6 P.M. on Sunday, April 7th, against the Sioux Falls Skyforce and Oklahoma City Blue matchup winner.

They have not made it to the championship game throughout their time as Sacramento’s G-League team, whether it was in the form of the Rino Bighorns or the Stockton Kings. While development is the primary goal in this league, finding ways to impact winning successfully is crucial to a player’s individual growth.

A former lottery pick in 2015, Stanley Johnson, expressed his gratitude and joy following the win. “You don’t have a lot of opportunities to win stuff,” he said. “So, being able to be in the conference finals is a big thing for me, and many guys in the room don’t understand what we’re doing; that’s what winning teams do. That’s what championship teams do. Winning is multi-language. NBA, Euroleague, here, it’s all the same.”

Johnson appreciates the naive nature of his teammates and the “purity” that comes with these wins. With a highly thought-of and now decorated coaching staff and experienced roster, the Stockton Kings will look to carry on their postseason success this weekend, ideally en route to a G-League championship.

When is the next Sacramento Kings game?

Sacramento will play the second game of a back-to-back on Friday night against the NBA-best Boston Celtics, who own the best home record in the league (33-3).

Boston (60-16) has already wrapped up the top seed in the Eastern Conference, ensuring home-court advantage throughout the NBA Playoffs as they look to improve to 15-1 against the Kings over their past 16 matchups against Sacramento at TD Garden.

Be sure to tune in right here on Sactown Sports 1140 for all of your Kings vs. Celtics coverage, beginning at 3:00 PM PST on Game Night before a 4:30 PM PST tip-off from Boston, Massachusetts.

Upcoming Schedule

  • Friday, April 5th – Sacramento Kings @ Boston Celtics – 4:30 PM PST
  • Sunday, April 7th – Sacramento Kings @ Brooklyn Nets – 4:30 PM PST
  • Tuesday, April 9th – Sacramento Kings @ Oklahoma City Thunder – 5:00 PM PST
  • Thursday, April 11th – Sacramento Kings vs. New Orleans Pelicans – 7:00 PM PST
  • Friday, April 12th – Sacramento Kings vs. Phoenix Suns – 7:00 PM PST

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