Even with just four regular-season games remaining and a difficult road ahead in order to extend their season, the Sacramento Kings are not about to concede a spot in the NBA’s play-in tournament.
“We want to win out and whatever happens, happens,” Kings guard Delon Wright said. “But as long as we control what we can control, that just gives us a hope to come out in these games and play like we’re playing for something. Even if we might not make it, I think it’s a good feeling to go out there and play for something and try to build.”
That pursuit continues at home Tuesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second consecutive meeting between the teams and the third meeting in five games for each.
Sacramento has won each of the previous two, including Sunday’s 126-98 victory. The Kings were able to bounce back from a loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Friday that pushed them to the brink of postseason elimination.
“It was emotional in here against the Spurs, everyone was down, and the team did a really nice job of getting themselves going early (Sunday) and playing to a certain standard and a certain level,” Sacramento head coach Luke Walton said.
The teams have had much different luck on the second game of consecutive meetings with opponents this season.
In four such two-game series this season, Sacramento is 1-3 on the back end with an average swing of 9.5 points on the negative side in the second game. The Kings still have another two-game series remaining at Memphis following Tuesday’s game.
Oklahoma City has generally improved in the second game of a series, going just 2-3 in such meetings but shifting the margin by 9.2 points in their favor in those games.
But in the Thunder’s most recent two-game set last week at Golden State, they lost 39 points in the second game after a 21-point defeat in the opener.
Oklahoma City has dropped seven consecutive games and 24 of their last 26.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, over the last 25 games, the Thunder have been outscored by 490 points — an average of nearly 20 points per game. The total margin of defeat during that span is the worst for any team in a 25-game stretch in NBA history.
With Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (foot) out since late March and Al Horford and Mike Muscala inactive as well, the Thunder have just one player — Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk — who has appeared in more than 150 NBA games, and no active players in their fifth NBA seasons or beyond.
“We know what we’re trying to do here, what we’re building,” rookie forward Aleksej Pokusevski said. “Of course, it’s tough to lose so many games, but at the end of the day, it’s about learning and what you’re trying to achieve. No one likes to lose, but we’re there for each other, learning, trying to get better every game.”
Among those young players is Jaylen Hoard, who joined the team in early April on a two-way deal. Hoard has scored 29 points over the last two games, including a career-high 16 in Sunday’s loss.
“He continues to impress,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “There’s really nothing sexy about his game yet but he competes every night, he competes inside the team and he executes on both ends with a high level of reliability. He’s still a young player with developing skills, especially on offense.”
–Field Level Media