The Sacramento Kings caught a break last night. After losing to a short-handed Philadelphia team on Thursday and moving four games out of the eighth seed, the Spurs, Trailblazers, and Grizzlies all lost on Friday night. This moved the Kings into a two-way tie for ninth place and only 3.5 games behind the eighth seeded Grizzlies.
The team that the Kings currently share ninth place with, is the team they will start a back-to-back against tonight, the Portland Trailblazers.
There’s good news and bad news in facing Rip City. First, the bad news: Damian Lillard made his return from injury on Wednesday and he is known as a Kings killer.
The good news: Lillard played 38 minutes last night in a loss to the Suns. Perhaps they will limit his minutes tonight since he is still fresh off an injury and hopefully Portland is collectively tired in their second game of a back-to-back. Also, Richaun Holmes is slated to make a return this weekend. Whether it’s tonight or tomorrow, his return to the court will be a big boost for Sacramento both on paper and in energy.
This is one of those must wins if they want to claim the eighth seed at the end of the season. If they lose tonight, they face falling 4.5 games behind the Grizzlies as Memphis plays a bad Hawks team tonight. Four and a half games is a large deficit at this point in the season and one that may turn out to be insurmountable.
Another reason that tonight is a must win is because they play the 44-18 Toronto Raptors the following night at home. Toronto is coming off an NBA Championship, and even after losing Kawhi Leonard in the offseason, they haven’t slowed down at all. Luckily, if he doesn’t end up playing tonight, Holmes is expected to at least play in this game, and the Kings will surely need him.
If the Kings could beat the Raptors in the second game of a back-to-back, they would surely give notice to the Western Conference that they are capable of competing in the playoffs.
At the end of the weekend, they at least need to split these two games, and hopefully that win comes against Portland so they can send them further down in the standings.
The Kings have a tough stretch approaching, but they’ve fought and played hard in order to be where they are now. It’s too pivotal of a moment to give up and the team will need to continue to play at their highest level.
I know some fans don’t want to admit to have any hope, and I understand why. However, there’s no reason not to root for this team to make the playoffs. Even if it comes to the last game and they are eliminated, at least we can appreciate the ride we were taken on.