Despite loss to Nuggets, Sacramento Kings look like a playoff contender

Sacramento Kings Buddy Hield (Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images)
Sacramento Kings Buddy Hield (Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Sacramento Kings went home with a painful loss on Wednesday night, but they certainly have the look of a playoff contender.

Things could’ve gone better for the Sacramento Kings, but they also could’ve been worse — much worse. Falling by just two on the road to the Western Conference’s no. 2 seed and doing so despite shooting 2-14 from three in the second and third quarters is a small win in itself, unfortunately, morale wins only go so far when it comes to chasing the playoffs.

Regardless, this game showed that, if anything, the Sacramento Kings are a legitimate playoff contender — one that’s gotten better as of late. The Kings and Nuggets met once in Denver already this season, all the way back in October — a game the Kings lost by 14.

Things were obviously much closer this time around, largely due to both internal improvement from the Kings youth and a big game from newly acquired forward Harrison Barnes. In a team-high 41 minutes, Barnes posted his first double-double as a King, going for 19 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and two steals on 7-19 shooting. The efficiency could certainly be better, but the Kings aren’t in this game if it wasn’t for Barnes. That, in all honesty, is one of the big reasons why the Kings seemed primed to make the playoffs.

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Since Barnes came over in a deadline trade from the Dallas Mavericks, he’s led the team in minutes while mostly taking on a tertiary role, often conceding on offense to Buddy Hield and De’Aaron Fox which is why the Kings brought him over  — to act a third option on offense and give the Kings a reliable option at small forward when it comes to defense and rebounding. Barnes has filled his role beautifully, taking the second-most shots on the team isn’t ideal, but what you want to see is being active on the boards, which he did tonight by leading the Kings in rebounds.

The Sacramento Kings lost tonight due to some poor execution, rough stretches filled with turnovers and some general unluckiness. They didn’t lose this game because they were overpowered or overmatched. That’s been the case for most of the month thus far, as they’ve compiled a 4-2 record in February, knocking off three playoff teams along the way (one of them was Miami, but still). The only bad loss they’ve had this month was a blowout loss to the Houston Rockets, hours after trading away several of the teams biggest leaders — hardly something to knock them for.

Heading into the All-Star Break, the Sacramento Kings are on a hot streak, sitting just half a game back from the Los Angeles Clippers for the final playoff spot and two full games ahead of the tenth place Los(s) Angeles Lakers.

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The Kings came out on the wrong end of a tough loss tonight, but a two-point loss to the Western Conference’s second seed isn’t a crushing loss, it’s more so a reinforcement of what the Kings and fans already feel — this is a playoff team.