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Kings vs. Pelicans Play-In Preview & Predictions: It all comes down to this

The Kings have earned a final shot at the Playoffs, but they'll have to beat the team that has given them the most trouble this season to do so.
By | 45 Comments | Apr 19, 2024

Apr 2, 2024; Sacramento, California, USA; Sacramento Kings forward Domantas Sabonis (10) dunks the ball against New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum (3) during the second quarter at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Kings fans are riding high after Tuesday’s Play-In victory against the Golden State Warriors.  Sacramento not only won that must-win game against a hated rival, they did so in dominant fashion.  With that victory, the Kings earned one final shot at making the playoffs, with the winner of tonight’s game moving on to face Oklahoma City in the first round.  But in order to do so, they’ll have to topple a team that has beaten them five times this season in the New Orleans Pelicans. Zion Williamson-less or not, this is going to be a tough battle.

Let’s talk Kings basketball!

When: Friday, April 19th, 6:30 PM PT
Where: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA
TV: TNT, truTV
Radio: Sactown Sports 1140

Three Things

Sixth times the charm?

Thanks to the inaugural in-season tournament, the Kings and Pelicans faced off five times this season.  New Orleans came out on top each time, and in convincing fashion too: the average margin of victory was 19.2 points.  If the Kings had managed to take even two of those games, they might not even be in this predicament right now, but alas here we are.

The Pelicans are a tough matchup for the Kings, sporting multiple long wings, good shooters across the board and a starting center who matches up well with Domantas Sabonis.  Now, the Kings do have one thing going for them tonight in that Zion Williamson, an absolute matchup nightmare for the Kings, will not be playing.  But even that’s no guarantee, as Sacramento lost by 33 in the lone game Zion missed in the season series.  Still, Zion being out means one less problem for the Kings to have to deal with, and this Pelicans team already presents the Kings with a lot of problems.

This game is going to come down to if the Kings can finally figure out how to get stops against the Pelicans.  New Orleans’ offense was pretty good for the season, ranking 11th overall.  But against the Kings this year, they might as well have been the ’92 Dream Team.  The Pelicans shot an absolutely ridiculous 54.6% from the field and 45.1% from three over five games against Sacramento.  That’s hard for a lone player to do over five games, let alone an entire team!  The Pelicans did play most of their games against the Kings before the new and improved defense had shown up, but even in their last matchup against the Kings a little over a week ago, they were able to drop 135 points, the most the Kings have allowed since the All-Star break.

No player has enjoyed playing the Kings more this season than C.J. McCollum.  McCollum is a good player, averaging 20 points, 4.6 assists and 4.3 rebounds, while shooting a career-best 42.9% from three.  But against Sacramento, his efficiency has skyrocketed: 60.4% from the field and 70.4% from three (13-18 overall).  That’s insanity.  Keon Ellis and Keegan Murray did a great job defensively against Stephen Curry in the first Play-In game, but they’ll need to do it again to stop C.J. from going off.

Live & Die by the Threes

New Orleans is a good three point shooting team (4th this season) but the Kings so far this season have allowed them to be the best three point shooting team of all time.  Allowing a team to hit 45.1% of their threes over five games is not a recipe for winning basketball.  Now, part of that is Zion Williamson’s gravity when driving into the paint that will not be an issue tonight.  But the Pelicans still have guys like Ingram and McCollum who excel at getting into the paint and then dishing it out to open players.  Trey Murphy, Herb Jones, Naji Marshall and Jose Alvarado are all reliable knockdown threats from outside, and it’s going to be up to the Kings to limit the amount of open threes those guys get.  The Kings did a great job protecting the perimeter against Golden State: The Warriors shot just 10-32 from distance.  They’ll have to bring that same energy tonight against the Pelicans.

On the other hand, the Kings need to be able to make their own threes, something that they’ve struggled with against the Pelicans this season, making just 33.3% of their long distance attempts.  We’ve seen all year how the Kings struggle offensively when the three isn’t falling, with a 5% difference in 3P% in Kings wins (38.8%) and losses (33.8%).  Against Golden State, the three was falling as Sacramento shot 18-39 (46.2%).  Keegan Murray, Harrison Barnes and Keon Ellis alone combined for 14-21 from distance.  You can’t expect that kind of shooting efficiency every night, especially in a playoff type environment, but we need the Kings to at least be decent from distance to have a chance.

I’m betting the winner of this game is the team that manages to knock down more threes.

Can Keegan and Keon do it again?

Keegan Murray was unbelievable against the Golden State Warriors.  In a game featuring multiple Hall of Famers, it was Keegan Murray who led the game in scoring and made his impact known right from tip.  32 points, 9 rebounds and 2 steals in 38 minutes of a win or go home game for Sacramento’s second year forward.  He did that while also starting out as the primary defender against Stephen Curry.  It was two-way perfection from Murray, and a perfect time for him to step up with the Kings missing two key players in Malik Monk and Kevin Huerter.

Keon Ellis was another guy that stepped up in a huge way.  Defensively he was superb as always, tallying 3 steals and 3 blocks while spending most of the game guarding both Splash Brothers.  But Keon also was very impactful offensively, scoring 15 efficient points (3-4 from three and 5-8 overall) while also dishing out 5 assists.

Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox are always going to be the offensive focal points for the Kings, but if guys like Keegan and Keon can step up like they did on Tuesday, it just opens everything up for the Kings.  The Pelicans have done a pretty good job containing both Fox and Sabonis this year.  The Kings supporting cast needs to be on their A-game to relieve as much of that pressure as they can.

Prediction

Nobody beats us six times in a row. Nobody.

Kings 119, Pelicans 112

Fan Predictions

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Jman1949
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April 19, 2024 9:31 am

‘Gainst the Pels we are zero for five;
Got to change that to just stay alive.
Seems they won’t have Zion—
Let’s play D to rely on
And O that allows us to thrive!

Jman1949
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April 19, 2024 9:33 am
Reply to  Jman1949

+1 Watch the Pelicans take a dive!

comment image&ct=g

eddie41
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April 19, 2024 10:38 am
Reply to  Jman1949

and return to Sac with the W

UpgradedToQuestionable
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April 19, 2024 1:47 pm
Reply to  eddie41

still the damn scariest Mascot that there ever was
https://images.app.goo.gl/9s5wo7NG3qgJYPwV6

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Last edited 1 month ago by UpgradedToQuestionable
RowJimmy
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April 19, 2024 4:34 pm
Reply to  eddie41

W Sac. Love it Go A’s

TerzoM
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April 19, 2024 9:32 am

Could Monte call CJ to apologize for Kangz not drafting him, and to promise he will draft his son in the future? 😀

andy_sims
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April 19, 2024 4:27 pm
Reply to  TerzoM

All the brass here were raving about how bright McCollum was, and how well he came off in his meetings when he came to town.

Of course, we opted to take a guy who is only able to read phonetically. Probably thought he’d be easier to rip off.

AmateurNerd
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April 19, 2024 4:52 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

Wait…. is that true? Ben McLemore could only read phonetically?

UpgradedToQuestionable
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April 20, 2024 7:23 am
Reply to  AmateurNerd

If those rape charges are true – it’ll be cell phonetically

RikSmits
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April 19, 2024 9:34 am

D-
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RikSmits
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April 19, 2024 9:39 am
Reply to  RikSmits

Is it harder to lose to a team 6 times in a row than missing out on the play-offs 16 times in a row?

RikSmits
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April 19, 2024 10:21 am
Reply to  RikSmits

I just read that the Fakers lost 8 in a row to the Nuggets,

ForKingsandCountry
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April 19, 2024 12:46 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

6 times in one season without making the playoffs seems like it’s impossible but with the Kings all things are possible!

RobHessing
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April 19, 2024 9:43 am

I can’t lie – the Pelicans do scare me a little bit.
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TheGrantNapear
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April 19, 2024 10:31 am

Beating a team six times in one season is not an easy feat. I think we come out on top today. I was surprised to see we were favored by 1.5.
Not to look ahead, but I low key think we can beat OKC.
LTB!

9sac8
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April 19, 2024 12:13 pm
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

I “high key” know we can beat OKC.

scottymusprime
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April 19, 2024 12:15 pm
Reply to  9sac8

Thus, by the Pythagorean Theorem —
Thoughts are low key and knowledge is high key.

Thank you for attending this TedTalk.

ForKingsandCountry
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April 19, 2024 12:47 pm
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

Pelicans are now favored by 1.5 points which isn’t all that surprising to me. They have crushed us with our without Zion.

ElkGroveKingsFan
April 19, 2024 5:52 pm

That just mean a lot of money on pelicans to move the line… come on vegas, do your thing

jwalker1395
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April 19, 2024 11:24 am

I’m banking on three things here tonight:

1. Regression to the mean on three point shooting for both teams. CJ just cannot possibly shoot 70% again….right?

2. No Zion means the Kings get to matchup reasonably well defensively, even though the Pels still have a wealth of good forwards.

3. The Kings defense is not what it was the first 4 times the Pelicans spanked them. If the Kings can play like they did for the final 3 quarters of their most recent matchup, we’re gonna have a game.

Realistically, the Pels probably still have the edge. But one can’t overstate how difficult it is to beat any NBA team six straight times. If the Kings were ever gonna get a win against this squad, now would be one hell of a time to do it.

BigDrewbot
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April 19, 2024 12:55 pm
Reply to  jwalker1395

If a team has clobbered another team 5 times out of 5, seems like the odds favor that team in the 6th game.

Additionally, Kings seem to take advantage of the other team missing its star player(s) by laying complete eggs, especially on national television.

Which means the Kings will probably Kangz it and do the exact opposite of expectations and have a dominant performance. Go Kangz! Light the beam

TerzoM
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April 19, 2024 11:32 am

Corgi… Ferrell

TheBaker
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April 19, 2024 1:22 pm
Reply to  TerzoM

I’m partial to both air and Corgis, so this gets my vote.

HumboldtCPA
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April 19, 2024 11:39 am

I’m headed to Redding after work for my son’s AAU basketball tournament. Will have to catch the first half on the radio. I’m looking to see Keagan continue to be aggressive and be our X factor tonight. LTB!!!

MichaelMack
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April 19, 2024 12:29 pm
Reply to  HumboldtCPA

Good luck to your son!

macdoogs
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April 19, 2024 11:46 am

If we beat the pels tonight I’m 100% sure we’re winning the finals.

If we lose to the pels tonight I wouldn’t really be too surprised.

scottymusprime
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April 19, 2024 12:10 pm
Reply to  macdoogs

I dunno, I think losing to the Pels tonight significantly decreases the likelihood that we win the finals this year.

9sac8
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April 19, 2024 12:18 pm

Play with anger, hunger, and revenge on the mind. We need to come out as the aggressor. There is no swinging back because we’re swinging first.

Let’s go guys. I believe in you.

Go Kings.

ForKingsandCountry
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April 19, 2024 12:49 pm

I have consistently said that the Pelicans as currently constituted would beat us 100 times out of 100. Their size length and the sheer number of elite defenders they can throw at Fox just makes it really tough. Prove me wrong Kings!

AnybodyButBagley
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April 19, 2024 6:24 pm

As currently constructed the Kings should be in the bottom ten of the NBA. Then there is the reality that they are hanging on.

Keep on going….

Mike120
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April 19, 2024 1:05 pm

It would be pretty neat if the only time we won in six matchups was the one that really mattered. Regardless of the outcome, I’m pretty satisfied with the season. We ended the Warriors dynasty in convincing fashion and exorcised those demons. We found a very good rotation player in Keon. Keegan is getting better. Fox was his usual self and Sabonis had a double double season for the record books. Monk deserves 6th man of the year and Mike Brown finally bested his old boss Steve Kerr. Sure, we need to make improvements in the offseason and I’m looking forward to seeing what Monte does. For the record, I don’t hate us keeping the pick. Chance to get a good PF in the draft.

TerzoM
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April 19, 2024 1:39 pm
Reply to  Mike120

We can do it!

RikSmits
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April 19, 2024 1:31 pm

This game is at 3:30 in the night here.

My wife is rooting for the Pels.

If the Kings ever reach the finals I will likely face divorce.

UpgradedToQuestionable
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April 19, 2024 1:41 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

and being a Kings fan is considered suitable grounds for the motion to be granted.

(it is in the same category as the “by reason of insanity” defense)

andy_sims
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April 19, 2024 4:31 pm

This is correct, and I know because I have impersonated an attorney.

Kfan
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April 19, 2024 2:06 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

Small price to pay. Way to take one for the team. Though if you were a real fan her rooting for the Pels is grounds for divorce now.

macdoogs
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April 19, 2024 5:38 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

If she doesn’t understand the Sacramento Kings being in the finals… she’s not truly the one for you

KingsInTheNorth
April 19, 2024 1:33 pm

Kevin O’Connor picked the Kings to win, so we are probably doomed.

UpgradedToQuestionable
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April 19, 2024 2:09 pm

Nobody beats us six times in a row. Nobody.

Yet.

Anything’s possible works both ways.

Let’s see if Head Coach Mike Brown and soon-to-be Head Coach Jordi Fernandez can find a way to better cover the 3 point line: make Kings Spray >> Pelican Spray

A hot shooting New Orleans team (56%) won’t likely happen – how the heck did the Lakers keep NOP to 9-30 (30%) and CJ McCollum 1-9? That raises my conspiracy hackles. For reference: that last Pels game had Sac shooting at 3FG% 42 – I’ll take that tonight (any night).

Protect the ball, cover the 3. Quell the Pels!

oshima9
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April 19, 2024 2:43 pm

Very hopeful. Hopefully, the Kings’ new found commitment to defense pulls the team through.

andy_sims
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April 19, 2024 4:37 pm

The comments about how hard it is for one team to beat another six times in a row are kind of naive.

I’d think it would be pretty hard to beat a team five times in a row, but we’ve learned it’s possible. Even a 4-0 playoff sweep is really hard to manage, generally speaking.

This isn’t exactly a coin-flip situation, where getting tails ten times in a row means that the eleventh flip is more likely to be heads. Every flip is 50-50.

I’d put it closer to 5/4, given that the Pelicans are, in general, just a better and more complete team. I’d say that our best players are better than theirs, but the rest of their team is not exactly loaded with tremendous slouches, if I judge correctly.

RPO
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RPO
April 19, 2024 4:55 pm

Hard to see sixth time being the charm, with or without Zion. This is just a team we don’t match up well against. Having likely ended the Duds’ dynasty in emphatic fashion will suffice for me.

UpgradedToQuestionable
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April 19, 2024 5:23 pm
Reply to  RPO

meaningless last minute statistic:

last season, Sac played NOP 3 times and went 2-1.

RPO
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RPO
April 19, 2024 5:29 pm

Oddly, this article from the Guardian says that OKC is vulnerable to being eliminated from the playoffs early because “They face the Sacramento Kings”. Does the Guardian know something we don’t? Is this a case of the UK being in an earlier timezone than the US west coast, so they already know what’s gonna happen in the future?

Klam
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April 19, 2024 5:56 pm

Gonna be watching the game from my hotel here in Atlanta. Let’s hope I don’t stay up till midnight for nothing!

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