The Kings’ playoff push after the NBA All-Star break remained perfect Sunday night, as they defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 124-115 at Paycom Center for their third consecutive win.
A nine-point victory over a Thunder team that played without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander isn't much of a statement. It's expected. But three victories over the Trail Blazers, Clippers and Thunder in a four-day span -- two on the road and one in double overtime -- proves to the rest of the league that the Kings aren't budging from the Western Conference No. 3 playoff seed position anytime soon.
“We’re a really good team,” rookie forward Keegan Murray told NBC Sports California’s Morgan Ragan and Kenny Thomas on “Kings Postgame Live” after the win. ”I think all of the guys in our locker room know we’re a good team.
“We’re just trying to prove it to everyone else around the league."
The Kings have occupied the West's No. 3 seed since defeating the rival Los Angeles Lakers on Jan. 18 at Crypo.com Arena. Other threats surrounding them in the standings made significant moves at the trade deadline, such as the Phoenix Suns acquiring Kevin Durant, the Dallas Mavericks pairing Luka Dončić with Kyrie Irving, and the Clippers adding Russell Westbrook to their starting five, for better or worse.
Many expected those giants to swiftly dethrone the unproven Kings in the season's final stretch, considering their microscopic one-game lead over the No. 4 Clippers at the All-Star break. But the Suns, Clippers and Mavs -- the three teams closest to Sacramento in the standings -- all suffered losses this weekend.
The Kings, now 35-25, own a three-game cushion for the No. 3 seed with 22 to play.
“We had a couple tough games early on after the All-Star break,” Murray said. “We’re getting it done; we’re winning games. Just need to keep the momentum.”
The biggest contributor to the Kings’ hot streak has been All-Star guard De’Aaron Fox, who notched his seventh consecutive 30-point game Sunday by dropping 33 in Oklahoma City. That’s the longest 30-point streak in franchise history since the team moved to Sacramento in 1985.
Just three other Kings players -- Basketball Hall of Famers Tiny Archibald, Oscar Robertson and Jack Twyman -- notched 30-point streaks of seven games or more when the franchise called Kansas City and Cincinnati home.
“Big-time players play big-time games,” Kings coach Mike Brown told reporters after the game. “[Fox] is a big-time player. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do for us. We need that from him, especially on the road. He has more than given it.”
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In Fox's seven-game streak, which dates to the Kings' 130-128 victory over the Houston Rockets on Feb. 8, he is averaging 34.4 points while shooting 57.9 percent from the field and 66 percent on 2-point attempts.
Fox also chipped in eight assists in the Kings' win over the Thunder and provided the game's top highlight. Guarding Thunder up-and-coming star Josh Giddey, Fox swiped the basketball away and threw down a rim-rattling windmill dunk that sent the Kings’ bench to its feet.
It wasn't a perfect night for Sacramento by any means, though. The Kings committed 19 turnovers and allowed the Thunder to creep back into the game with a 40-point third quarter.
"One of those games where you just find a way," Brown said. "It wasn’t pretty.
"At the end of the day, especially on the road, coming off an emotional back-to-back victory that was a double-overtime game, you take a win in that situation 1,000 times out of 1,000 times."
This win in Oklahoma City won't be remembered as one of the season's pivotal moments. But it's another example of the Kings taking care of business against an inferior opponent -- a necessary trait for a team that's trying to separate itself in the packed Western Conference.