Sacramento Kings fans can finally breathe. For the first time since Ron Artest, Brad Miller and Mike Bibby were on the team, they will be taking part in the playoffs.
Their 120-80 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers didn’t have much drama, considering that the Blazers have shut down Damian Lillard and likely many of their other starters for the rest of the season. However, no one in Sacramento will care about that because the team has finally reached the promised land after so much struggle. Fans may not even remember this game as the one where Keegan Murray broke the rookie record for three-pointers made in a season, because the end of the drought is what matters most.
After nearly two decades of mismanagement, Head Coach Mike Brown and General Manager Monte McNair have put together one of the most extraordinary single-season turnarounds in history. The Kings were projected to win around 37-38 games this season and blew by all of those expectations. Sitting in third place with a 46-30 record, there’s a chance that they may even win 50 games considering their remaining schedule and the series record so far:
- Portland Trail Blazers (2-1 advantage)
- San Antonio Spurs (3-0 advantage)
- New Orleans Pelicans (1-1 tie)
- Dallas Mavericks (1-1 tie)
- Golden State Warriors (1-2 disadvantage)
- Denver Nuggets (1-1 tie)
The Kings haven’t just squeaked into the playoffs. They have also locked down at least the fourth seed, and likely the third seed in the Western Conference along with the Pacific Division crown.
After so much struggle and pain, Kings fans can finally celebrate the perfect storm of events that led to this moment. From hiring Coach Brown, to trading for Kevin Huerter, signing Malik Monk and drafting Murray, McNair has hardly made a misstep since taking over Vlade Divac’s disastrous run in the front office. Hell, even Vlade deserves a little credit as he drafted De’Aaron Fox and brought Harrison Barnes to Sacramento, and the contract he gave Buddy Hield allowed Hield to be packaged along with Tyrese Haliburton (a McNair draft pick) in the trade that brought Sabonis to town.
No sane Kings fan would have predicted this turnaround. Brown is a serious Coach of the Year contender, McNair is in the running for Executive of the Year, while Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox (the leading candidate for the inaugural Clutch Player of the Year) have legitimate shots at making an All-NBA team. Oh, and Murray is likely a lock for the All-Rookie team. As a cherry on top, the Kings are also running one of the greatest offenses in NBA history.
The sports world loves an underdog story, and when it comes to the NBA, there have been no bigger underdogs than the oft-maligned Kings. Now, they’ve taken their destiny into their own hands. While most of the squad isn’t battle-tested in the playoffs, they also have nothing to lose. They’ve earned their ticket to the playoffs with grit and determination and are now playing with house money.
The real battle begins in April, and the Kings will now be eagerly awaiting to see who they’ll face in the first round. None of the potential matchups will be easy, and they may even be underdogs with homecourt advantage, but it’s safe to say that they’ll put up a good fight against anyone in front of them.