3 Keys for the Sacramento Kings to keep their playoff hopes alive 

New Orleans Pelicans v Sacramento Kings
New Orleans Pelicans v Sacramento Kings / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages
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The Sacramento Kings did not enter this season’s Western Conference Play-In Tournament as one of the favorites to make it out. After all, the other teams featured big stars, like LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Stephen Curry, and Zion Williamson. Getting revenge for last year’s playoffs, they eliminated the Warriors, however, and now have one final chance to secure a playoff spot. 

Unfortunately, they will have to face the New Orleans Pelicans, who have embarrassed them five times already during the regular season. Zion Williamson will not be playing, but the Kings have lost to the Pelicans without him before. 

This game has to be different. Otherwise, the Kings will go home with many daunting questions flooding in. Will Malik Monk want to return to a team that missed the playoffs? What moves can they make over the summer now that they still owe the Atlanta Hawks a top-14 protected first-round pick and do not have many picks to trade? 

So, let’s look at three keys for the Kings to keep their playoff hopes alive. 

3. Keeping up the good defense

After barely being able to guard anyone to start the season, the Kings are finally a functioning defensive team. They even held the Golden State Warriors to less than 100 points. 

Keon Ellis has been a big part of this change. He has quickly emerged as an exceptional defensive talent, navigating screens well and getting his hands on the ball every chance he gets. Adding him to the starting lineup takes some pressure off De’Aaron Fox to be the go-to guy on offense while also guarding one of the other team’s best guards. Against the Warriors, he played Stephen Curry as well as humanity possible. 

The Kings need him to do the same against the Pelicans. CJ McCollum has been playing incredibly well against the Kings, and they do not need him to go off and hit a bunch of threes with their season on the line. 

Sacramento’s improved defense is not just a one-man effort, however. Keegan Murray has played a big role as well and will probably draw the Brandon Ingram assignment tonight. Everyone else has to be physical and not be intimidated by the Pelicans’ size advantage. 

Another big thing for Sacramento to watch defensively is three-point shooting. The Kings struggled to guard outside shots for most of the season, and the Pelicans shot 45.1 percent against them for the season. Opponent shooting is not always something you have control over, but there is a difference between forcing them to shoot over a hard closeout and letting them just get the shots off without any resistance.