The Sacramento Kings ended their 16-year playoff drought with a resounding 120-80 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night (Thursday, Philippine time).
De’Aaron Fox led the Kings with 18 points, while Kevin Huerter added 17 points to seal the team’s first playoff berth since 2006. The win also secured home-court advantage for Sacramento in the opening round of the postseason.
Fox, in an Associated Press report, said they wanted to do bigger things, and being able to do so after 16 years felt great.
Kings rookie Keegan Murray set the NBA record for most 3-pointers in a season by a rookie with his 188th triple of the year.
Murray finished the game with 13 points and flashed a smile after breaking Donovan Mitchell’s record of 187 set in the 2017-18 season.
The Kings, who currently sit at third place in the Western Conference with a record of 46-30, could have clinched their playoff spot earlier in the night, but the Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Memphis Grizzlies, 141-132. The first-place Denver Nuggets and the Memphis Grizzlies, who are three games back, have already secured their spots in the postseason.
Despite being without regular starters Damian Lillard, Jusuf Nurkic, Anfernee Simons, and Jerami Grant due to injuries, the Blazers fought hard with rookie Shaedon Sharpe scoring 30 points. However, the loss to the Kings eliminated Portland from playoff contention.
Kings coach Mike Brown was excited about the team’s accomplishment, but he stressed that they expect more. The Kings have been strong on the road this season with a record of 23-14, which is the third-best in the NBA. The team has also avoided extended losing streaks, with their longest being just four straight losses at the start of the season.
Portland had a slim one-point lead of 20-19 after the first quarter, but the Kings quickly took control of the game and surged ahead to 44-32 with 3 minutes and 51 seconds remaining in the second quarter, thanks to a clutch 3-pointer from Kevin Huerter.
The Blazers managed to close the gap to just 4 points at halftime, trailing the Kings 50-46.
However, Sacramento came out firing in the second half and went on a scoring rampage, leading by as many as 40 points. Domantas Sabonis contributed 15 points and 12 rebounds to the Kings’ victory.
Portland coach Chauncey Billups acknowledged that the Kings’ ability to make 3-pointers was the difference in the game.
Blazers coach Chauncey Billups credited the Kings’ 3-point shooting as the biggest difference in the game. “They’re going to play the same way. They’re going to shoot a lot of 3s, and miss or make, they’re going to play that way. We just couldn’t keep up,” Billups said in the AP report.
The win was a historic moment for the Kings, who now have a chance to do something special in the postseason.