Grizzlies look to improve playoff seeding vs. eliminated Kings

NBA Basketball

The Sacramento Kings have been eliminated from postseason play for the 15th consecutive season and will begin playing out the string when they visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday in the second contest of a back-to-back.

Memphis notched a 116-110 victory on Thursday and extinguished Sacramento’s last playoff breath with a game-ending 12-0 run.

The Kings’ playoff drought ties for longest in NBA history with one put together by the Clippers franchise (Buffalo Braves, San Diego and Los Angeles Clippers) from 1977-91.

The Kings (31-39) played solidly for the first 45 minutes but the franchise’s campaign ended in the same fashion each one has since Rick Adelman coached Sacramento to the playoffs in eight straight seasons from 1998-2006.

“I give our players a ton of credit,” second-year Kings coach Luke Walton said after his team lost for just the second time in the past eight games. “I mean, they scrapped and fought and competed. It was fun. It was a fun game. Unfortunately we made a few too many mistakes down the stretch and they made us pay each time.”

The Grizzlies (37-33) have won four straight games and own the same record as the Golden State Warriors as they jockey for positioning in the play-in round. Golden State currently holds the eighth spot due to having a better conference record and Memphis sits ninth.

The Warriors host the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night.

The Grizzlies close the regular season against the host Warriors on Sunday afternoon. If the two teams enter with the same record, the team that wins Sunday will hold the tiebreaker advantage and land the No. 8 seed for the play-in round. They Warriors and Grizzlies split two games in March.

“We got to be focused, locked in and do whatever it takes,” Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas said of the next two games.

Memphis also clinched a winning record for the first time since the 2016-17 campaign.

“We have loftier goals ahead of us and more basketball to play,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said afterward. “It’s obviously great to acknowledge that but we’re never satisfied.

“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished up to this point but we all know we want more.”

Dillon Brooks poured in 30 points and Valanciunas added 24 points and 13 rebounds in Thursday’s win.

The duo also fared well in Memphis’ first meeting with the Kings, a 124-110 win on Feb. 14 in Sacramento. Valanciunas contributed 25 points and 13 boards and Brooks tallied 22 points in that contest.

Guard Justin James poured in a career-high 31 points on 12-of-17 shooting on Thursday for the Kings. His previous high was 16 against the Utah Jazz on April 28.

James had 13 points on 5-of-16 shooting over the previous two games before breaking out versus Memphis. But he was unable to take much joy out of his top NBA outing due to Sacramento being eliminated.

“I would be lying if I said this doesn’t feel different than any other loss,” James said. “Knowing that we’re out of the playoffs, it (stinks) for our fans, it (stinks) for our city, but we’ll be there one day.”

James figures to have earned more playing time for Sacramento’s final two games with the team’s injury list including guards De’Aaron Fox (health and safety protocols) and Tyrese Haliburton (season-ending knee injury). Also sidelined are forwards Harrison Barnes (adductor) and Marvin Bagley III (groin).

Big man Richaun Holmes (knee) departed Thursday’s game in the second quarter and also could be shut down.

Memphis guard Grayson Allen (abdominal) is expected to miss his sixth straight game.

–Field Level Media

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