On this date back in 2001, the Sacramento Kings achieved something for the first time since moving to the California capital 16 years prior.
While it has been 16 years since the Sacramento Kings last won a playoff series, which is far too long for any franchise in any sport. But this is not their longest playoff-victory hiatus that they have ever endured. From 1982 until 2001, the franchise came up empty in their attempt at a playoff series victory. But all of that came to an end 19 years ago today.
On May 2nd, 2001, the Kings defeated the Phoenix Suns 89-82 in the fourth and deciding game of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. It was victory number three for Sacramento in the best-of-five series, and the team advanced for the first time since moving to the California capital in 1985.
Peja Stojakovic had a huge game for the Kings, scoring 37 points on 55 percent shooting from the field and a perfect 14 for 14 from the free throw line. These were still the pre-Steve Nash Suns, instead Jason Kidd was still at the helm. But it was Clifford Robinson who led Phoenix in scoring with 24 points and Jake Tsakalidis pulled down 12 rebounds.
The Kings would go on to play the Lakers in the Western Conference Semi-Finals, but were swept by the eventual champs in a quick four games. But the franchise had gotten over the hump that it had been needing to since the move to Sacramento 16 years prior and were victorious in a postseason series.
One side note from that particular game against the Suns: I was 12 years old at the time and just beginning to understand intricacies of basketball, and kept wondering why my favorite player, Jason Williams, was on the bench in crunch time.
Williams was subbed out of the game with 7:40 left in the 3rd ruarter and never saw the court again, and the Kings opted to close out the game with Bobby Jackson controlling the ball. It worked, and Sacramento had a decision to make. Their flashy, fan-favorite point guard was a liability in late-game situations due to his turnovers and lack of precision shooting touch.
Nearly two months after the victory over Phoenix, the Kings traded Williams to the Vancouver Grizzlies in exchange for Mike Bibby, a move that finally put Sacramento in position to be a true contender in the West.
We are now hoping that the Kings don’t match their previous mark of 19 years without a playoff victory. But the first step is simply getting to the postseason, which would be a victory in of itself for a starving franchise.
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