The Kings end the NBA’s longest playoff drought by returning to the postseason for the first time in 16 years.
The Sacramento Kings have finally ended the longest NBA playoff drought in league history as the team returns to the postseason for the first time in 16 years by clinching their spot with a blowout win against the Portland Trail blazers
Sacramento defeated Portland, 120-80, on Wednesday to impressively clinch the third seed in the Western Conference with six games to play in the regular season.
The Kings wouldn’t be where they are this year without forward Keegan Murray, who hit a 3-pointer during the third quarter against the Trail Blazers to set the NBA rookie record with 188 3-pointers in a season.
Murray’s 3-pointer with 6:44 remaining in the quarter allowed him to break the previous mark set by Donovan Mitchell in 2017-18 when he was a member of the Utah Jazz.
The 3-pointer was Murray’s third of the game. Murray entered the contest tied for second in three-pointers by a rookie, as Damian Lillard made 185 for the Trail Blazers in 2012-13.
The Sacramento Kings finally ended their 16-year playoff drought with a win against Portland
Murray has the highest 3-point field goal percentage (40.7 percent before Wednesday) for a rookie who had at least 400 long-range attempts. Saddiq Bey ranks second on that list after hitting 38 percent for the Detroit Pistons in 2020-21.
Murray, the fourth overall pick in the draft last year out of Iowa, entered the night averaging 11.9 points and 4.6 rebounds in 73 games (71 starts).
Portland was without regular starters Damian Lillard (right calf), Jusuf Nurkic (right knee), Anfernee Simons (right foot) and Jerami Grant (left quad), all injured. Portland took a bit of a turn for the worse Wednesday when Keon Johnson, who scored 20 points in a loss to New Orleans on Monday, broke a finger on target practice. Only seven Blazers played.
The Kings are 22-14 on the road this season, third-best in the NBA. And they’ve avoided long losing streaks: The team’s longest came early in the season when the Kings opened with four in a row.
“I think every experience we’ve been through this year can help translate [to the playoffs]’ Kings coach Mike Brown said. ‘But I tell you, we will experience it in the playoffs on another level. And each round that he advances in the playoffs, it will even take him to another level.
Sacramento could have sealed the playoff spot earlier in the night, but the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Memphis Grizzlies 141-132. Rookie Shaedon Sharpe had 30 points for the Blazers, who have lost four straight and 10 of their last 11 games. The loss to the Kings eliminated Portland from playoff contention.
The Kings not only ended the longest amount of time an NBA franchise has gone without a playoff appearance, but also the longest active postseason drought among any team in the NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB.
“I feel like that group believes in themselves, not just because I tell them they’re good, but because they’ve actually gone out there and proven it time and time again, whether it’s individually in certain situations or collectively as a team,” Brown said earlier. of Wednesday’s victory.
‘When you have a team that believes, it can be dangerous. You have a connected team that thinks it can be a very dangerous team and that’s what our group is right now.”
The Kings are also one of the NBA’s best feel-good stories this season with an entertaining brand of basketball that leads the league in scoring at 120.9 points per game for the highest mark in the league since 1983-84.
Each home win is punctuated with lightning lighting, a beam of light from purple lasers on top of the Golden 1 Center, and fans have even chanted for the lightning bolt at road games across the country.
“There’s a playoff atmosphere every night,” forward Kevin Huerter, one of the key offseason acquisitions, said after a recent win at home. ‘The only thing left is to hand out the jerseys and maybe some towels, whatever they’re doing for the playoffs. But it really is this every night.
The Kings have been one of the most success-hungry franchises since moving to Sacramento in 1985. They had a losing record in each of their first 14 seasons in California, winning just one playoff game.
That all changed in 1999 when general manager Geoff Petrie and coach Rick Adelman built a winner around players like Chris Webber, Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic who played with an entertaining style in an era of hard work that nearly clinched a championship.
The Kings posted a record eight straight wins and playoff berths under Adelman, but lost a harrowing seven-game series to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2002 and then saw their title hopes derailed the following year when Webber suffered a serious knee injury. In a second. playoff round.
Adelman maintained the team’s competitiveness through 2006, but was fired after a second consecutive first-round playoff exit.
Then the dark era began with 16 straight losing seasons under 11 managers, a change in ownership, and fears the city would lose its only major professional team to Seattle.
Vivek Ranadive bought the team from the Maloof family in 2013 and kept the team in Sacramento by building a stadium downtown, but there was no success on the field until this year.
The Kings traded star DeMarcus Cousins and missed several high draft picks. But they’ve revived after last year’s trade with Indiana that sent up-and-coming point guard Tyrese Haliburton to Indiana for Sabonis and the decision to hire Brown as coach.
Sabonis proved to be the perfect piece to team up with the speedy Fox, giving Sacramento a dynamic duo.
Fox is averaging 25.4 points per game and has been the league’s leading scorer this season, scoring in double figures in the fourth quarter a league-high 25 times.
Sabonis, acquired in a controversial trade from Indiana midway through last season for up-and-coming guard Tyrese Haliburton, has been the perfect piece to team up with Fox with his big-man playmaking ability. Sabonis is averaging 19 points, 12.5 rebounds and 7.3 assists with 12 triple-doubles.
Add in the outside shooting from Huerter and rookie Keegan Murray, the veteran presence of Harrison Barnes and Malik Monk’s bench scoring and the Kings have drawn the attention of other contenders.
“Give a lot of credit to Mike Brown,” Celtics star Jayson Tatum said. ‘He has the guys playing much better. Fox is playing at an All-NBA level. Sabonis has been great for them. They play very fast. All those guys are much more confident.
“When you play with confidence, it naturally opens things up for the individual and the group.”