It’s been nearly eleven years since the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings squared off in the 2002 Western Conference Finals, a WCF that is widely regarded as one of the best in NBA history.
Since then, both franchises have had their ups and downs – the Kings playing at a high level during the Lakers’ down years while the Kings fell from grace once the Lakers rebounded post-Shaq. Needless to say, the once budding “rivalry” was more between the fans than the teams on the court as the two organizations struggled to find on-court success at similar times. Even during King victories over the storied Los Angeles franchise in recent years, they were nothing more than small speed-bumps in a long 82 game grind as the Lakers marched their way into the playoffs while the Kings struggled for 25 wins.
But this evening, for the first time in years, there is something at stake between the Kings and Lakers – something that could give both teams the same fate at regular seasons end. Tee times.
After tonight, the Lakers will have eight games left in their season – five against currently seeded playoff teams with a game in Portland and against the Hornets to round out their schedule. Not exactly a breeze. They currently sit on the outside looking in, tied with the Utah Jazz (though percentage points behind) for the final playoff spot in the West, winners of three in a row.
So yes, there is plenty on the line for both Sacramento and Los Angeles.
For Sacramento, who will miss the playoffs for the seventh straight season – tonight and the rest of their season (which features two games against the 7th seeded Houston Rockets) is their playoffs. With the Lakers, Rockets and Dallas Mavericks all looming in the next week, the Kings could directly impact the tight Western Conference playoff race with a few high quality victories, something they’ve become accustom to lately going 6-4 in their last ten and being owners of the league’s best offense since the trade deadline.
With the Kings oddly playing some of their best basketball in months, if not longer, and many of their games directly impacting the Western Conference playoff race, the seasons final few weeks should be fun for the purple and black loyalists.