The Sacramento Kings are back in action tonight and taking on a New York Knicks squad that has gone from play-in shoo-in to battling for a home court advantage in the first round, flipping the script on their season all in the stretch of the last month. With a slew of injuries now weighing heavily on the Western Conference’s final push for the playoffs, the Kings themselves sit at second in the West, but aren’t settling for an assumedly fleeting high water mark. Yes, tonight is the battle of the one-defeated’s, with each squad having gone 6-1 since the All-Star Break and neither looking to back down from the opportunities that lie within their grasp. Will Jalen Brunson’s questionable foot keep him from dueling with De’Aaron Fox? Will the sonic clap of Julius Randle and Domantas Sabonis colliding leave it’s victims their hearing? Can Mike Brown convince Tom Thibodeau that there is peace at the end of a straight razor because bald is beautiful?
Let’s talk Kings basketball!
When: Thursday, March 9th, 7:00 PM PT
Where: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, CA
TV: NBC Sports California
Radio: Sactown Sports 1140
For Your Consideration
Handle the Randle: Mental health check here – have you blocked the last appearance of the Knicks in the season long drama of the Kings from mind? That game back in early December, sans Fox, in which the Kings spotted the Knicks a 14 point lead and 36 total points in the first quarter. No? It’s the same game where Julius Randle was on his way to 45 or 50 points but got tossed out at the start of the third quarter, then the Kings did absolutely nothing with it, rolling to a cool 99 points for the game and one of the ugliest 13 point losses in world history. Okay, good, I’m glad the mind wipe has worked on you.
The Sacramento Kings come into tonight with the opportunity of the decade – maybe two or three in Kingsland. They sit in second place, tied in record with the Grizzlies but holding the better conference record. The very same Grizzlies that won’t see Ja Morant on the court for at least another four games, the very same Grizzlies that will be missing both big men in Brandon Clarke and Steven Adams for the rest of the regular season, the very same Grizzlies who have lost three straight and are just 3-4 since the All-Star Break. The Kings are currently being chased by the Phoenix Suns, who are two games back and red hot, but also just found out why trading a heap of assets for an injury prone Kevin Durant was a risky maneuver after Durant put his ankle at a 90 degree angle during shoot around the other night. The current rumor at the time of writing is that the Suns fear its a Grade-2 sprain, which could take him out of the rest of the regular season. Behind the Suns, it’s a dog fight between the Warriors and Clippers at 5 games back and the Wolves and Mavericks at 5.5 games back. Time has nearly run out for those team, barring the Kings health holds. The Warriors are old and oddly vulnerable, the Clippers are 4-6 in their last 10 including two wild losses to the Kings. The Wolves are waiting for KAT to be back but are clicking at the right time and the Mavericks just found out that Luka has a funky quad that needs an MRI and maybe some games off to manage. With 18 games to go, the Kings have their health, their youth, no known locker room drama and, most importantly, the lead.
It was fun to celebrate the fact that the Kings could, even for a moment, touch the second seed this late in what has been a truly fantastic season. Hell, in years past we’ve celebrated being in the playoff race sarcastically after five or so games. But suddenly, with the four minutes to go in the fourth quarter of the NBA’s regular season, the Kings are holding the lead. They’ve got possession of the second seed in the Western Conference and their fate is in their hands.
So when tonight is billed as a great big game for the Kings – it’s because it absolutely is. This Knicks squad, if you squint hard enough, is very much a Bizzaro-Kings squad. Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson are a mutated Fox-Sabonis combo, Immanuel Quickley is the young developing point guard off the bench a la Davion… Even the coaches are known for being meticulous and defensive driven, even if one is fun loving while the other might be a sociopath. It’s not exact, I’m not trying to force it too much, but there’s some comparison there in the way the Kings have risen this year out of the ashes and how say, the Knicks did in 2020-21. A new coach brings an identity, a star big sets the tone and the league doesn’t take them seriously until they have to – main difference being is that the Kings already had Fox ready to go and didn’t need a down year to go get their all-star point guard.
You know what to expect from the Knicks squad. They bust their ass, they play slow and they grind you down defensively. They’re the 3rd best rated defense in the league, teams score the least amount of points against the Knicks and they hold opponents to the lowest field goal percentage in the league. There’s still a chance that the Kings will still find a way to score 130 on them.
This is the proverbial immovable object meeting an unstoppable force. It’s a challenge to your middle school coach looking into your bored little eyes during defensive slides and saying “defense wins championships”. This isn’t a championship match-up – but it has a hell of a lot of playoff implications for both teams. If defense can’t win this one, I say coach was a damn nerd.
Your coach was a damn nerd.
Kings: 131, Knicks: 118