Kings end long playoff drought with 120-80 win over Blazers
Published 12:37 am Thursday, March 30, 2023
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — De’Aaron Fox scored 18 points and the Sacramento Kings clinched their first playoff berth since 2006 with a 120-80 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.
Kevin Huerter added 17 points in the win, which also earned the Kings home-court advantage to open the postseason. The team’s 16-year playoff drought was the longest in NBA history and the longest active postseason dry spell among teams in the NBA, NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball.
Kings rookie Keegan Murray made his 188th 3-pointer of the season with 6:44 to go in the third quarter to set the NBA record, passing Donovan Mitchell’s mark of 187 set in 2017-18. Murray, who flashed an understated grin after the shot fell, finished with 13 points.
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The Kings sit at third in the Western Conference. The first-place Denver Nuggets and the Memphis Grizzlies, who sit three games back, have already clinched.
Sacramento could have sealed up 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.
Portland was depleted with regular starters Damian Lillard (right calf), Jusuf Nurkic (right knee), Anfernee Simons (right foot) and Jerami Grant (left quad) all nursing injuries. It got a bit worse for Portland on Wednesday when Keon Johnson, who had 20 points in a loss to New Orleans on Monday, broke a finger in shootaround. Only seven Blazers played.
The Kings are 22-14 on the road this season, third-best in the NBA. And they’ve avoided extended losing streaks: The team’s longest came at the start of the season when the Kings opened with four straight.
“I think every experience that we’ve gone through this year can help translate (to the playoffs),” Kings coach Mike Brown said. “But I’m telling you, we’ll experience it in the playoffs at another level. And every round you advance in the playoffs, it’s going to even take it up another notch.”
Portland had a 20-19 edge after the first quarter, but the Kings took over, going up 44-32 on Kevin Huerter’s 3-pointer with 3:51 to go before halftime. Portland closed the gap to 50-46 at the break.
The Kings went on to lead by as many as 40 points in the second half. Domantas Sabonis finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Kings: The Kings were also in a position to clinch Monday, but they fell to Minnesota 119-115. … A large group of purple-clad fans chanted “Light The Beam” in the waning moments.
Trail Blazers: It will likely be the second straight season the Blazers have missed the postseason. … F Justise Winslow had surgery Wednesday on his left ankle. He is expected to be ready to play next season.
The Kings and the Trail Blazers play again Friday night at the Moda Center.