Kings, Pacers give Indian youth in Mumbai night they never will forget

Kings, Pacers give Indian youth in Mumbai night they never will forget

MUMBAI, India -- Never has 4,000 kids screaming at the same time sounded so good.

The Kings' NBA preseason loss to the Pacers on Friday night was unique for several reasons. It was the first NBA game ever played on Indian soil. The game was played in a venue that was not designed for basketball. Instead of selling the tickets for the historic game to the general public, thousands of kids from the surrounding Jr. NBA programs were bused to the NSCI Dome to watch the game.

Roughly 75 buses were needed to bring all the aspiring basketball players to Mumbai.

What happened once the game started was something that no one has ever seen or heard.

Those 4,000 youth went crazy with every single basket. It didn't matter whether it was the Kings or Pacers filling it up. There was screaming. Lots and lots of screaming.

But in this rare instance, no one was annoyed by the screaming. In this case, it made for an incredible scene.

"I thought it was amazing. It was awesome," Kings coach Luke Walton said after the game. "What a cool event to be a part of … NBA basketball. We talked about it as a team before the game, but NBA basketball in the middle of India and a crowd full of kids that have come through Jr. NBA, and then we got out to the court, like you said, whoever scores, they were cheering for.

"I heard Kings chants, I heard Pacers chants, so it was a lot of fun."

Buddy Hield, who led the Kings with 28 points in the preseason opener, loved the scene.

"When the Pacers were losing, they were going for the Pacers and when we started losing, they went for the Kings," Hield said. "It was a great atmosphere and those kids will remember it for the rest of their lives. Us coming down here playing the game of basketball at the highest level, in India, it’s big time. I enjoyed myself, I’m still enjoying myself here. The people of India are very welcoming and they treat you with a lot of respect."

After Indiana's T.J. Warren tied the game 118-118 with 7.8 seconds remaining in regulation, Hield had a chance to win the game at the buzzer, but missed.

Those same kids cheered as loud as ever, but not because they were rooting against the Kings. It meant they got to see five minutes of NBA basketball.

"To be in this new environment, it was very, very humbling," Warren said. "To be able to come out and compete in front of the kids, in front of India means a lot. We’re very grateful for this."

The Pacers trailed the Kings by 13 at halftime, but they turned things around in the second half.

[RELATED: Watch Ferrell hit halftime buzzer-beater]

Coach Nate McMillan gave an assist to the kids in attendance.

"It was good energy out there. The kids were loud. Kids are loud anyway," McMillan said. "They were good, they were into the game. I wasn’t sure if they were going to be pulling for the Pacers or the Kings. It was somewhat of a mixed crowd. But good energy and the guys fed off that. When you have a crowd that’s into the game, it was intense. There’s no doubt the players fed off of that and they started compete even harder to try to win the game."

No matter how the Kings-Pacers game goes on Saturday, it's unlikely to top the atmosphere created by those 4,000 screaming kids.

What Kings have to do to erase early struggles, make NBA playoffs push

What Kings have to do to erase early struggles, make NBA playoffs push

The post mortem on the 2019-20 Kings season isn’t ready to be written just yet, but it's getting late for Luke Walton's team. After a promising season last year, the Kings come out of the All-Star break at 21-33, seven games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Injuries, bad beats, two-minute report failings and playing down to competition have turned the first two-thirds of the season into a woulda, coulda, shoulda kind of year. With 28 games remaining, do the Kings still have a chance to turn the season around?

The short answer is yes, the Kings still have an opportunity to end their 13-season postseason drought. The long answer is more complex.

The Kings open their post-All-Star break schedule at home with a matchup against the Grizzlies. If they can find a way to beat an up-and-coming Memphis team, they would give themselves a glimmer of hope for the remainder of the season.

A loss would put them eight games off the pace, with a 1-2 record against Memphis. Game over.

If the Kings can get past the Grizz, they have a small window to make up ground. They travel to Los Angeles for a game against the Clippers on Friday. The last time the Kings were in Staples Center, they lit the Clippers up for a franchise-record 21 3-pointers in a 124-103 win.

After the trip to LA, the Kings continue their four-game road trip with stops in San Francisco to play the Warriors, Oklahoma City and Memphis. Sacramento is 2-0 against the Warriors and 1-1 versus both the Thunder and Grizzlies on the season.

Following the four-game road trip, the Kings return home to host the Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards and Philadelphia 76ers. At the end of this eight-game stretch, the Kings either will still be breathing or their season will be over.

A 5-3 record over this grouping of games really is the worst the Kings can afford. A 4-4 stint or even a 3-5 record would be a huge blow in one of the last remaining soft spots in the schedule.

Even if the Kings make it through this stretch with a 5-3 record or better, they have a long road in front of them. They play 11 of their final 20 games at home, with eight of those games coming against clubs with a .500 or better record. Ten of those remaining games are against teams currently in the postseason picture.

The schedule is one issue, but in order for Sacramento to make up ground, they also have to pass over additional teams in the standings. The Kings trail the Phoenix Suns by a half-game, the New Orleans Pelicans by a game-and-a-half, the San Antonio Spurs by two games and the Portland Trail Blazers by three games.

In short, the Kings would need to jump over five teams in the standings over the final 28 games to make the playoffs.

The remaining strength of schedule, according to, favors both the Blazers and the Pelicans in this situation.
Remaining strength of schedule (win percentage of remaining opponents):

Grizzlies            .554
Suns                  .522
Spurs                .488
Kings                 .487
Trail Blazers     .467
Pelicans            .449

Strength of schedule only is one of the issues facing the up and coming Grizzlies. Having one of the youngest rosters in the NBA, Memphis has very few players who have been in this situation before. Jonas Valanciunas has 43 career playoff games under his belt. Kyle Anderson played in 30 postseason games with the Spurs and newly acquired Gorgui Dieng has played in five. Tyus Jones (4) and Grayson Allen (2) round out the team’s total playoff experience.

If the Grizzlies fall, which is entirely possible, that still leaves a bevy of teams standing between the Kings and an elusive postseason berth.

The Blazers made it to the Western Conference finals last season, but they’ve struggled to stay healthy and build momentum all season after a series of roster moves. The Spurs are riding a 22-year postseason streak and they always seem to flourish in the window directly following the All-Star break.

The Pelicans just started integrating top pick Zion Williamson into their rotation and they are 5-5 since his arrival. Phoenix is just 3-7 over its last 10 games and their strength of schedule is difficult.

[RELATED: Buddy's Friday night out didn't slow him in 3-point contest]

Despite losing their final two games heading into the All-Star break, the Kings are 6-4 over their previous 10 games. They’re playing better basketball, keyed by the insertion of Bogdan Bogdanovic in the starting lineup, Buddy Hield finding a rhythm off the bench and the arrival of veteran Kent Bazemore.

The odds are not on the Kings' side, but if they can get healthy, integrate Jabari Parker into the rotation and get on a roll, there still is time to at least make this race interesting. It starts Thursday against the Grizzlies. If they can’t get that one, then none of this matters.

How Kings' Nemanja Bjelica has filled gaps, according to Zach Lowe

How Kings' Nemanja Bjelica has filled gaps, according to Zach Lowe

Ever since the Kings signed forward Nemanja Bjelica to a three-year, $20.5 million contract in the 2018 offseason, it quietly has been a great deal for Sacramento. 

Bjelica averaged career highs in points (9.6) and rebounds (5.8) for the Kings last season, and he has been ever better in Year 2 with the Kings. 

The 31-year-old is averaging 12.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game over 54 games this season. He also is shooting 48.5 percent from the field and 44.9 percent from 3-point range, both career-bests. 

For his ability to give the Kings quality minutes at center, Bjelica landed on Zach Lowe of ESPN's latest "Ten things I like and don't like." 

"The Kings needed something to fill the void after injuries to Marvin Bagley III and Richaun Holmes -- who had been killing it as their starter -- and whatever the hell happened with Dewayne Dedmon," Lowe wrote. "Credit Bjelica for stepping up.

Lowe notes that per Cleaning The Glass, the Kings have outscored opponents by almost 10 points per 100 possessions with Bjelica as a small-ball center. 

Holmes has missed 17 straight contests with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He attempted to return to the court last week but had a setback after one practice. Bagley, the No. 2 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, has only played 13 games this season and isn't sure if he will suit up again this year after aggravating his sprained left foot

[RELATED: Kings' Holmes 'definitely ready to get back' after setback]

The Kings traded Dedmon back to the Atlanta Hawks months after signing him to a three-year, $40 million contract this past offseason. 

In what feels like yet another lost season in Sacramento, Bjelica has been a bright spot the Kings can count on.