Kings host Pelicans, shoot for .500 finish
Neither the New Orleans Pelicans nor the Sacramento Kings are going to make the playoffs.
But the Kings feel like there's still something they can accomplish as they prepare to play their home finale in the Pelicans' final road game of the season Sunday.
Sacramento's 119-98 loss at Utah on Friday guaranteed that the Kings won't finish with a winning record, but they can still finish .500 by beating New Orleans and winning their season finale at Portland on Wednesday.
"We're going to finish .500," guard Buddy Hield said after leading Sacramento with 17 points against the Jazz. "It was just a bad one tonight."
A 40-win season would be the Kings' best since they last made the playoffs in 2005-06. Sacramento coach Dave Joerger said before Friday's game that a break-even record would be a significant milestone for the young and rebuilding team.
"Well I think that's a big deal," Joerger told the Sacramento Bee. "I think there's a big difference between 40-something and 30-something aesthetically to the eye. Real credit to our guys and the work that they put in. It's been an exciting season and hopefully we can finish this out."
Nothing went right Friday for Sacramento, which was playing without center Willie Cauley-Stein for personal reasons. Utah scored the first 13 points of the game and the Kings lost two players during the game as guard De'Aaron Fox (foot) and center Kosta Koufos (calf) left in the first half and did not return.
Their status for the game against New Orleans wasn't immediately known.
The Pelicans can relate to the Kings' absences as New Orleans is playing out the stretch with three starters - Anthony Davis (back), Jrue Holiday (core muscle) and E'Twaun Moore (knee/quad) - sidelined by injury.
New Orleans began its final road trip of the season Friday night with its second overtime loss to the Western Conference-worst Suns in the last three weeks, falling 133-126.
The Pelicans scored a season-high 76 points in the first half and led by as many as 15 points in the third quarter, but scored just 50 points after halftime.
"I guess we just got a little complacent, a little bit maybe," guard Elfrid Payton said. "We kind of stopped doing what was working for us in the first half."
Julius Randle led New Orleans with 31 points and 14 rebounds. Ian Clark scored a season-high 24 points, Christian Wood scored 17, Payton had 14 points and 12 assists, Cheick Diallo had 12 points and 11 rebounds and Jahlil Okafor added 11 points for the Pelicans. who lost for the 12th time in 14 games.
"We weren't playing the right way the whole game even though we had a good lead in the first half," Randle said. "Too many mistakes, not playing hard enough, so that led to them making a comeback. We didn't come out with the right focus."
The Pelicans, who finish the season at home against Golden State on Tuesday, lead the season series against the Kings 2-1 after a 121-118 home victory on March 28.
The home team has won each meeting, with the Pelicans winning 149-129 on Oct. 19 in New Orleans and the Kings winning 122-117 on Dec. 23 in Sacramento.
--Field Level Media
Updated April 6, 2019