With last week’s schedule release, it’s time for the annual proclamation of the obvious: the Kings have to be better at home.
For any team sport, it’s inherent that winning at home and establishing an advantage there is key to overall success. It’s so true that even pointing it out feels like a hollow platitude.
Even still, there are a few reasons winning at home will be particularly critical for the 2023-24 Sacramento Kings.
For one, there’s the other obvious statement: the Kings were a better road team last season. They finished with a 25-16 away record, which was the best in their conference and tied as the second best in the entire league. At home, however, they were just 23-18, and while that’s a winning record, it was just the 18th in the NBA.
Sacramento should be able to bring a similar level of competitiveness on the road, but if they are going to surpass their 48 wins from the season before, the ground has to be made up for at The Golden 1 Center. To expect that they finish nine games above .500—or more—away from home is an ambitious bet for a team with a chance to finish near the very top of the conference; the oddities of last season—which affected so many teams except, oddly enough, the Kings, especially regarding injuries—can’t be counted on.
They simply have to put it on themselves—and nobody else—to take care of business.
And at home with the Sacramento crowd, that really shouldn’t be too difficult of a request. But as much as the home environment makes it easier, it doesn’t change the fact that they can’t expect anything to fall in their lap. They still have to go out and work to earn the necessary success on the home floor.
A prime illustration of this is the fact they lost in seven games to the Warriors despite having home court advantage. And even before that, it was often on full display to the dismay of the head coach.
The fans brought it, but we didn’t—how many times did Mike Brown, in effect, say that a season ago?
Further substantiating the overarching point here is that winning at home will take on amplified importance in the final third of the season, the home stretch.
Because of what the Kings did last season, there’s little need in highlighting the fact that 30 of the first 53 scheduled games are on the road; it’s tough in its own right, but until proven otherwise, Sacramento seems to thrive in that scenario.
What’s truly more pertinent to note is what happens in the final 28 games. In that closing third of the season, the Kings play 17 at home. Now, of course, that on its own means there would be a ripe opportunity to close the season out strong, but there’s always more to it, which heightens the necessity to utilize the advantages of playing in front of a home crowd.
Seven of their 15 total back-to-back’s come in that final third of the season. So while the Kings play a majority of their remaining contests on their home floor, they’ll also be playing some intensive levels of basketball in a consolidated stretch of time as nearly half of their back-to-back’s populate their closing 28-game segment.
That will be an intense part of the year as all sorts of teams will be hitting the gas to vie for playoff positioning. So that, along with having to play those back-to-back’s in a shorter stretch of time, will underscore the need to capitalize on playing at home.
This Kings team—because it is mostly the same as last year—has shown a lot of grit and a lot of promise in their response to adversity away from The Golden 1 Center. The maturation process of becoming a real contender, however, relies on a number of things, and a prominent one is having the kind of home court advantages that the best team’s have always seemed to have throughout the years.
Handling one’s business is always imperative, but no matter how indisputable that is, it seems especially true for this Kings team as they embark on a season that will close with a direct challenge to protect the home floor.