Finally! Kings clinch first NBA playoff spot since 2005-06


It’s over. The playoff drought finally is over.

The Kings officially clinched an NBA postseason berth for the first time in 17 seasons with a 120-80 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday at Moda Center. 

Sacramento’s playoff drought has been a shadow cast over the franchise for nearly two decades. The last time the Kings made the playoffs was the 2005-06 NBA season, a team led by guard Mike Bibby and coached by Rick Adelman. That team was issued a first-round exit in the playoffs, and the Kings declined renewing Adelman’s contract after the season.

There have been 12 different head coaches since then to attempt to lead the Kings into the postseason, but all fell short until Mike Brown arrived in California’s capital city. He changed the culture in Sacramento. The wins followed.

Like all new coaches and players to arrive in Sacramento, Brown quickly was introduced to the playoff drought when he was hired last May. But he made it clear from the very start he wasn’t focused on only being one of the last eight Western Conference teams standing.

"The reality of it is, that's what we’re here to do," Brown said when asked about making the playoffs at practice Oct. 18, one day before the Kings opened up their regular-season schedule.

"We love the fans, we do. They’re great fans. But even if the fans didn’t feel like we need to make the playoffs, I'm not here to coach regular-season games. It’s just as simple as that."

The Kings started the season in all-too familiar territory, stumbling out of the gate with an 0-4 record after losses to the Portland Trail Blazers, Los Angeles Clippers, Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies. Rumblings of the “same old Kings” began to take form in Sacramento. 

But the 2022-23 Kings proved they were different. They rattled off seven straight wins from Nov. 9 to Nov. 22, their longest winning streak since 2004 to propel themselves back into the thick of the Western Conference.

A one-point victory over the Utah Jazz on Dec. 30 – yes, capped off by that Kevin Huerter shot -- propelled the Kings to 19-15. They leaped into the No. 5 playoff seed and have held a top-six spot in the standings ever since.

That’s when the expectations changed. This Kings team wasn’t just going to hang around and hope for some luck in the play-in tournament; this team was for real.

On Jan. 18, the Kings beat the rival Los Angeles Lakers on the road and found themselves in the No. 3 spot in the West, a place they haven’t relinquished since that night. They won their 40th game of the season March 11 against the Phoenix Suns, ending a 16-year drought that matched their playoff absence.

Now, the Kings are 46-30 with seven regular-season games remaining and staring at the playoffs believing they can make some noise.

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Simply making the playoffs won’t be enough for the fan base in the future. Expectations have changed. This roster is too good. 

But for now the 2022-23 Kings already are a beaming success. Everything achieved in the postseason is icing on the cake.

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