Kings still ‘playing for something’ after thumping Thunder to keep playoff hopes alive

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It’s probably only a matter of time before the Kings are officially eliminated from postseason contention, but they aren’t conceding anything yet.

Maurice Harkless and Terence Davis scored 18 points apiece and the Kings kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a 126-98 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night at Golden 1 Center. It was Sacramento’s largest margin of victory since the Kings opened their downtown arena in 2016.

Delon Wright posted 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists for the Kings (30-38), who bounced back after suffering what coach Luke Walton called an “emotional meltdown” following a devastating loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Friday.

“I feel like we’re playing for something,” Wright said. “We just wanted to come out here and take care of business, and I feel like that’s what we did.”

Darius Bazley had 18 points and six rebounds for the Thunder (21-48), which has lost seven in a row and 21 of its last 22 games.

The Kings were still missing De’Aaron Fox (health and safety protocols), Tyrese Haliburton (knee) and Harrison Barnes (adductor). Haliburton has already been ruled out for the rest of the regular season. Walton acknowledged on Sunday that Fox and Barnes could be held out as well “if it doesn’t make sense” for them to return as the season winds down.

The Kings jumped out to a 13-point lead in the first quarter and carried a 71-51 advantage into the halftime break. They went up by as many as 35 in the third quarter before Walton went deep into his bench in the fourth.

Eight players scored in double figures for the Kings. Richaun Holmes had 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting. Buddy Hield had 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Marvin Bagley III and Chimezie Metu had 13 points and nine rebounds apiece.

Walton said he was pleased to see that kind of response from his team following a deflating loss to San Antonio.

“It was great to see because it was a natural game for a letdown- type of game,” Walton said. “It was emotional in here against the Spurs. Everyone was down, but the team did a really nice job of getting themselves going early and playing to a certain standard and a certain level.”

Updated playoff picture

The Kings are 4 ½ games behind the Grizzlies for ninth, 2 ½ games behind the Spurs for 10th and one game behind the New Orleans Pelicans for 11th. The teams that finish ninth and 10th will play each other to determine who faces the loser of the Seven-Eight Game for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

The Grizzlies and Spurs have five games remaining. The Kings and Pelicans have four games remaining. The Spurs and Pelicans both hold tiebreaker advantages over the Kings. The tiebreaker between the Kings and Grizzlies will be determined when they play a back-to-back-set Thursday and Friday in Memphis.

The only way Sacramento can catch Memphis is if the Kings go 4-0 in their remaining games and the Grizzlies go 0-5. Both teams would finish with 34 wins and the Kings would win the tiebreaker by virtue of a 2-1 win in the season series.

Catching the Spurs won’t be much easier. Any combination of two San Antonio wins or Sacramento losses will spell doom for the Kings, but the Spurs have a daunting schedule with remaining games against the Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns (2).

The Pelicans have a difficult schedule as well with games against the Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers. New Orleans is not expected to have the services of Zion Williamson (finger) and Brandon Ingram (ankle), who are out indefinitely due to injuries.

“Of course, we want to win out, and whatever happens, happens, but as long as we control what we can control, that just gives us the hope to come out in these games and play like we’re playing for something, even if we might not make it,” Wright said. “I think it’s just a good feeling to go out there and play for something and try to build on some of these games.”

Hield cleared to play

Hield was questionable due to a sprained left ankle, but he was cleared to play in what Walton called a game-time decision.

Hield is in hot pursuit of Peja Stojakovic’s franchise record for 3-point goals. Stojakovic made 1,070 3-pointers over eight seasons in Sacramento. Hield has made 1,053 in five seasons with the Kings. Hield needs 18 3-pointers over the final four games of the regular season to break Stojakovic’s record.

Hield is averaging 4.0 3-point goals per game this season. He made 4 of 10 from beyond the arc against the Thunder on Sunday.

Vlade Divac sighting

Former general manager Vlade Divac sat courtside with Kings owner Vivek Ranadive and Monte McNair, the man Ranadive hired to replace him after Divac stepped down in August after five seasons. Walton and several players made their way over to greet Divac after the game.

“He’s one of those people that, when you see him, you can’t help but smile,” Walton said. “He’s a massive man. I’ve known Vlade since ‘03 when I first got in the league and he’s a fantastic, fantastic person, so when I looked over and saw him it brought a smile to my face.”

Up next

The Kings and Thunder will meet again when they conclude a two-game set on Tuesday at Golden 1 Center.

The Kings will then hit the road for a back-to-back set against the Grizzlies on Thursday and Friday at FedExForum in Memphis. Jonas Valanciunas had 25 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Grizzlies to a 124-110 victory over the Kings on Feb. 14 in Sacramento.

Injury report

Thunder: OUT — Luguentz Dort (knee); Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (foot); Ty Jerome (calf); Mike Muscala (ankle).

Kings: OUT — Harrison Barnes (adductor); De’Aaron Fox (health and safety protocols); Tyrese Haliburton (knee); Hassan Whiteside (health and safety protocols); Robert Woodard II (back).

Kings upcoming schedule

May 11 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder, 7 p.m.

May 13 at Memphis Grizzlies, 5 p.m.

May 14 at Memphis Grizzlies, 6 p.m.

May 16 vs. Utah Jazz, TBD

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