Kings

Kings' NBA playoffs drought hits 14 seasons after bubble elimination

Kings

The Kings' playoff drought officially extended another year.

The Portland Trail Blazers' 124-121 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday dashed Sacramento's last hopes of a chance at the postseason, as the Kings can no longer qualify for a play-in series between the Western Conference's No. 8 and No. 9 seeds.

The Kings (29-40) needed to finish the restarted NBA season ninth in the West and no more than four games back of the Memphis (33-38) for eighth in the conference to force a play-in, and Sacramento was mathematically eliminated Sunday.

Sacramento hasn't made the playoffs since 2006 but entered the Orlando bubble with high hopes of returning this year. The Kings instead floundered out of the gate, losing all but one of their first five games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex as most of their rivals surged. While the Grizzlies' struggles (1-5 since the restart) created a real opportunity, the Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs leapfrogged the Kings in the standings and the Trail Blazers can still grab a play-in spot.

The Kings didn't just start slow in Orlando, however. Sacramento opened Luke Walton's first season as coach with a five-game losing streak, then lost eight consecutive games to close out December and another six straight in mid-January. The Kings stood 15-29 and second-to-last in the Western Conference on Jan. 22, and that hole proved too deep to dig out of.

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Sacramento's 13-8 run prior to the NBA season's coronavirus suspension in mid-March kept the door to the playoffs ajar, and the restarted season's format cracked it wide open. The Kings were scheduled to play teams around them in the standings (Spurs, New Orleans Pelicans), Eastern Conference foes all-but-assured of playoff spots (Orlando Magic, Brooklyn Nets) and Western Conference contenders who would've had little to play for (Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers) by the time they played Sacramento.

But the door started to shut when Kings lost to the Spurs, Magic and Dallas Mavericks to open the restarted season. A loss to the Nets on Friday all but closed it, and the Blazers' win on Sunday finished the job.