When Kings could clinch first playoff berth in 16 years


In case you haven't heard, the Kings are closing in on their first playoff berth in 16 years.

It's just a matter of days before the purple victory beam atop Golden 1 Center will indicate a trip to the postseason bracket.

Entering Thursday's slate of games, Sacramento's magic number stands at three. That means any combination of three Kings wins and/or losses by the seventh-place Minnesota Timberwolves would clinch a top-six playoff spot in the Western Conference.

If the Kings don't receive any help below them in the standings, they could clinch a playoff berth with three straight wins over the Phoenix Suns on Friday, Utah Jazz on Saturday and Timberwolves on Monday.

The Timberwolves currently hold the No. 7 playoff seed as of Thursday, but really, Sacramento benefits when teams in contention below the No. 6 seed lose since the West standings are so tightly packed.

Minnesota (37-37), Oklahoma City (36-36), Dallas (36-37) and the Los Angeles Lakers (36-37) all are separated by just a half-game in the standings. The Kings' magic number decreases as the gap widens between themselves and these teams.

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Despite losing back-to-back games, Sacramento still is secure as the No. 3 seed with a five-game lead over the fourth-place Phoenix Suns. The Memphis Grizzlies have separated themselves as the No. 2 seed, however, winning four straight games since the Kings briefly leaped into second place on March 16.

There no longer is any doubt the Kings will clinch a playoff berth. It's now a matter of when, not if.

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