SACRAMENTO -- An early look at the Kings’ December schedule had even the most optimistic person wincing. Packed with tough Western Conference opponents and difficult scheduling anomalies, Sacramento has been favored to win just four of the team’s 12 games so far this month.
At 8-4 over the stretch and 18-15 on the season, the Kings continue to defy the oddsmakers and shock the NBA.
“It’s fun to do that, to outplay a lot of people’s expectations, it’s fun,” forward Justin Jackson said. “I know for me individually, it definitely feels good to do something that other people say you can’t do. For us as a team, I think we take that very serious.”
While they continue to win more than they lose, the Kings haven’t exactly made life easy on themselves. They dig huge holes, but they play with a speed and an energy that always gives them a shot.
Friday night against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Kings fell behind by 19 points in the first half and rebounded to come away with the 102-99 victory. They did the same exact thing Sunday afternoon against the New Orleans Pelicans, but again, they made a second-half run to come away with a 122-117 win.
This was the first time since January 2010 that an NBA team trailed by 19 points in consecutive games and came away with victories in both. The Indiana Pacers were the last to accomplish the feat.
“We kind of had that problem last year with the way we were starting games, but it’s something we have to be able to fix,” point guard De’Aaron Fox said. “I think the team is showing that we have a lot of resilience and coming back and being able to finish a game like that.”
With the win and three games remaining in the 2018 calendar year, the Kings have secured a .500 record going into the new year for the first time since the 2004-05 season.
“It’s big time, we’re in the race,” center Willie Cauley-Stein said. “And it’s how long can you stay in the race.”
The Kings have avoided a prolonged losing streak this season. They dropped three in a row in late November, but that was their only three-game stumble so far this season. Their longest winning streak is five games, which they accomplished back in late October and early December.
“Right now we’re about to see a separation in the league,” Cauley-Stein said. “The good teams are going to go on seven-, eight-game winning streaks, and the bad teams are going to lose seven, eight games. It’s that line of where do you want to be at.”
The Kings plan on taking Monday and most of Tuesday off for the holiday. They’ll reconvene late on Christmas day to fly as a group to Los Angeles, where they’ll take on the Clippers on Wednesday night at Staples Center.
Falling behind big won’t work every game, especially on the road. The Kings will have to make adjustments if they hope to continue to win, but they're one of the best stories of the season so far.