UPDATE: April 18, 2024

Now the Sacramento Kings will face off against the New Orleans Pelicans. Zion Williamson will be missing for the Pelicans, but they’re still 5-0 against the Kings this season. It will be anyone’s game, though, and effort will be at max level from both sides.

Keegan Murray, who was excellent for the Kings against the Golden State Warriors, will be expected to shoulder a lot of the offense again. CJ McCollum, on the other hand, will certainly perform for the Pelicans as he’s got a history of bringing it to the Kings.

The race to avoid the 2024 NBA play-ins came down to the final day of the season. In a wild sequence, the Phoenix Suns were able to clinch the sixth seed and final guaranteed playoff spot because the Los Angeles Lakers took down the New Orleans Pelicans. 

The Suns, who had beaten the Sacramento Kings by one point in the penultimate day of the 2023-24 NBA Regular Season, must have been ecstatic to make it out, because now the Western Conference play-ins are going to be a bloodbath.

As it stands, the Lakers and Pelicans are set for a rematch, with the winner of that game earning the right to face the defending champion Denver Nuggets in the first round. 

After that, the loser will have a second shot at the postseason as they’ll take on the winner of the game between Northern California rivals in the Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors.

The Kings and Warriors put on an extremely competitive regular season series, which ended in a 2-2 tie. The final three games of that series were all decided by a single point. That regular season series also came after a seven-game war in the first round of the 2023 playoffs, which saw Steph Curry score 50 points in his career playoff-high in front of a hostile crowd.


Here are my thoughts each team’s chances heading into the play-ins.

Los Angeles Lakers

After struggling for large parts of the season, the Lakers have now put themselves in a great position to get a rematch against the Denver Nuggets, who swept them last year. LeBron James, who hasn’t lost a play-in game yet, will look to maintain his perfect record as he and Anthony Davis attempt to get one more serious run at a title. While James may be starting to slow down, he still keeps shocking the NBA world with his ability to perform in important games.

The Lakers also have the added edge of knowing that they were able to take a commanding win 124-108 victory over the Pelicans just a day ago. In a winner-takes-all situation, that kind of mental edge could play a huge part. 

New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans will be a bit shellshocked after flailing on the final day of the season and gifting the Phoenix Suns the sixth seed, but this is a young and dangerous team that has the tools to pull off a victory, especially if Zion Williamson gets going. They lost their regular season series 1-3 to the Lakers but they’ll find solace in knowing that they won both their regular season series against the Warriors (2-1) and Kings (5-0).

Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum will also have a lot to do with whether or not the Pelicans advance to the playoffs, but I think they have a great chance.


Golden State Warriors

The Warriors now find themselves in a tough situation. With how close the regular season series went against the Kings, there’s no telling what could happen in their first play-in game. They still have the advantage of Steph Curry leading their team and he’s already had some experience in breaking the Kings’ hearts last year. 

The Warriors also had a much stronger closeout to their season, finishing their last 10 games with an 8-2 record, which was the best out of all four teams in the play-ins.

Sacramento Kings

The Sacramento Kings are in their nightmare scenario. Not only did they fall out of the top six, they didn’t even manage to crack the top eight and so must win two games to make it to the eighth seed. They finished their last 10 games with a 4-6 record and are now missing Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk, the latter of whom is a Sixth Man of the Year candidate and is extremely important to their offense.

Should they beat the Warriors, they may actually want to hope that it’s the Lakers that they face next, because they swept them. The total opposite is true of the Pelicans, who beat the tar out of the Kings a bunch of times on the way to a 5-0 sweep.

De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis will have to be at their very best, and the loss of Monk means that Keegan Murray and Harrison Barnes must contribute on offense.

Unfortunately for the Kings, they have shown a habit of blowing double-digit leads in the second half this season. They can look like world beaters one day and then lose to the league’s worst teams in the next game. To advance to the playoffs, they’ll have to be consistent over two games, which is a very big ask for one of the NBA’s most inconsistent teams.