A Game of Thrones to face…the Kings?

Sacramento prepares for heated sixth seed race in Western Conference


Nathan Smith

The Sacramento Kings are Pacific Division Champions due in large part to star guard De’Aaron Fox, who has led the team with 25.2 points per game. While holding the third seed, the Kings await the end of the regular season for their sixth seed opponent. (Photo taken from The Analyst; graphic made in Canva by Nathan Smith)

Nathan Smith

With the NBA regular season heading to a close this week, the Sacramento Kings have clinched the Pacific Division with a record of 48-32 before matching up against the Golden State Warriors Friday night. 

While the streets of SacTown have enjoyed nearly 50 beam sightings piercing the downtown skyline, en route to the Kings ending a 17-year playoff drought, how will the team fare in the first round of the playoffs in the Western Conference?

The Kings are locked in as the conference’s third seed, while their Pacific division rivals the Clippers and Warriors are shaping up to be one of their potential first-round matchups, trading place between the fifth and sixth seed down the stretch of the regular season.

The Lakers, Pelicans, Timberwolves and Thunder are also in consideration as they currently hold the play-in tournament spots. If the Kings reach the Western Conference Finals of the NBA playoffs, the Sacramento State graduation commencement will be moved from Golden 1 Center to Hornet Stadium.

So let’s go over who they may face in round one:

Golden State Warriors

Against the Warriors in the regular season, the Kings have gone 1-3 with three of those games being nail-biters. Andrew Wiggins has announced his determination to get back on the basketball court for playoffs after an extended absence, which adds necessary defensive prowess to an undersized Warriors lineup. 

Additionally, the offensive trio of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole left a lot of defenses in shambles this season as well as last season, in which they took home the NBA championship. 

Los Angeles Clippers

The Kings have had a clear advantage over the Clippers this season going 3-1 on the regular season, including an insane hard-fought 176-175 win in double-overtime. 

A healthy Paul George and Kawhi Leonard duo pose problems for the Kings on the offensive and defensive end with the amount of playoff experience they both have. Also, Russell Westbrook has shown glimpses of greatness during his 36-point performance against the Memphis Grizzlies last week. 

The Kings would need more big games from Fox and their “sixth man” this season: Malik Monk, who both had over 40 points simultaneously in that overtime win. 

Los Angeles Lakers

Like the Clippers, the Los Angeles Lakers found themselves losing three out-of–four matchups against the Kings. A healthy Lebron James averaging almost 29 points a game can be a threat to any team in the Western Conference, along with Anthony Davis’s paint presence.

Sharpshooters Kevin Huerter and Keegan Murray will be relied on more heavily from the three-point line as they average at least five three-pointers made a game combined during the regular season. 

New Orleans Pelicans

Last year, the New Orleans Pelicans surprised the league by beating the Spurs and Clippers in the play-in tournament to secure the eighth seed and face the Phoenix Suns. This year, they have a guaranteed play-in spot and may be on the cusp of having a healthy Zion Williamson in the near future.

For the regular season, Brandon Ingram, C.J. McCollum and Williamson all averaged above 20 points per game making it no easy task to beat them in the playoffs. Nevertheless, the Kings won the regular season series at 2-1 after Tuesday’s blowout win 121-103 and look to keep their momentum rolling.

Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves also lead in the regular season series against the Kings 2-1 after a 119-115 win on March 27. However, they have to face the troubling news of a possible six-week injury for Naz Reid, which works in the favor of the Kings come playoff time. 

Additionally, the Timberwolves are another young team that has shown promise, yet lacks discipline as shown in their loss to a 19.5-point underdog Portland Trailblazer team that was missing four of their starters including Damian Lillard. 

Defeating any of these teams in the first round will be no easy task for the Kings, but they do have one of the most well-rounded teams in the league and coach Brown has his share of experience coaching the Golden State Warriors into becoming NBA Finals champions. This may be the year the Golden 1 Center isn’t the home for Sac State graduates.