Sunday Musings: Kings season reaches final act

Next five games can open a door or spell the end for Kings

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Have we reached the beginning of the end? 

Maybe we reached the beginning of the end on Sunday, Nov. 21, when the Kings fired head coach Luke Walton after a 6-11 start. Maybe it was Jan. 31, when the Kings dropped their seventh straight game at the end of a long road trip.

It very well could have been Saturday evening in Denver when the Kings fell a season-high (or low) 18 games under .500 with just 20 games remaining on the schedule.

This time, it feels like it’s for real, despite the Kings still trailing the Blazers by just four games in the standings with 20 games left on the schedule. The clock on the season is winding down and the uphill battle facing the Kings is monumental.

The next five games on the schedule, four of which are on the road, are realistically the last ditch effort the Kings have to save their season. After this stretch, there are a handful of winnable games remaining, but none of them will matter if Sacramento doesn’t find a way to win the majority, if not all of the next five. 

It starts Monday night in Oklahoma City against a 19-win Thunder team. Sacramento currently holds a 2-1 lead over the Thunder in the season series, with the lone loss coming on the road in OKC. 

Road losses are a common theme for the Kings this season. After starting the year 6-6 away from Golden 1 Center, Sacramento has just one win on the road since Dec. 1, a 123-110 win over the Wizards on Feb. 12. 

Following the stop in OKC, the Kings face the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night at the Smoothie King Center. The Kings are 2-0 against the Pelicans this season, with two more games on the docket. Sacramento currently trails New Orleans by three games in the standings, but four games in the loss column.

The Kings hop straight from New Orleans to San Antonio, where they’ll face the Spurs on the second night of a back-to-back on Thursday. These two teams have split the season series, with each club picking up a win on their respective home courts. 

Like the Pelicans, the Spurs are ahead of the Kings in the standings, but not by much. San Antonio has a two and a half game advantage and three less losses on the year. A win at the AT&T Center would give the Kings a season-series win, which comes in handy when it comes to tie breakers.

Alvin Gentry’s squad ends their road trip on Saturday in Dallas. While the Mavericks are 10 games over .500 and firmly planted in the middle of the Western Conference playoff standings, this is still a game the Kings have to win if they hope to stay in the chase.

The Mavs hold a 2-1 advantage over the Kings this season, with the lone victory for the Kings coming on a Chimezie Metu 3-pointer at the buzzer in late December. 

After a long trip away, the Kings return home a week from Monday to host the New York Knicks at Golden 1 Center. Like Sacramento, the Knicks are on the outside looking in at the playoff picture and currently sit at 25-36 on the season. 

While the Knicks hold a 1-0 record over the Kings, they are just 3-14 over their last 17 games and are in an epic downhill slide. 

These five games are the Kings’ last ditch effort to stay in the play-in chase. Following this stretch, Sacramento has just 15 games remaining on the schedule with ten of those contests coming against teams with a .500 record or better. 

It’s a brutal schedule for the Kings with zero margin for error. The likely outcome for this season is that Sacramento misses the play-in tournament by a handful of games, which takes away the slim opportunity for the team to snap its 15-season playoff drought.

In reality, this is probably the best outcome for the Kings. They need more pieces to the puzzle and another high-end draft draft asset could help with their build, whether they keep the pick or trade it for immediate help.

We have reached the final leg of the marathon. Good teams break out into a sprint. Bad teams fall by the wayside. The fate of the 2021-22 Sacramento Kings season very well could have been decided a few months ago, but the next handful of games will either open a door just a crack or put the nail in the coffin. Which Kings team will show up?

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