Why Kings advancing to West finals wouldn't surprise Lowe

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The Kings established themselves as a top-three Western Conference team over the first four months of the season, and proved they belonged by winning six of seven games since the NBA All-Star break.

Sacramento could move into the No. 2 playoff seed Tuesday night if the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Memphis Grizzlies.

ESPN’s Zach Lowe wouldn’t be shocked to see the Kings as one of the last two teams standing in the West when the playoffs roll around.

“There is a semi-reasonable world where we wake up and the Kings are in the conference finals,” Lowe said on the latest episode of “The Lowe Post” podcast. “I wouldn’t pick it. It’s going to depend a lot about who their first-round opponent is out of these teams.”

If the postseason started Tuesday, the No. 3 seed Kings would have home-court advantage in a first-round series against the No. 6 seed Minnesota Timberwolves.

“Everyone is just penning them in as the loser of the No. 3 vs. No. 6 series,” Lowe said. “I think they’re going to be a tough out.”

No matter the first-round opponent, the Kings will counter with a historic offense currently on pace to break the NBA’s single-season record for offensive rating (119.4). De’Aaron Fox, the frontrunner to win Clutch Player of the Year, has been steering the offense all season, especially in crunch time.

Sacramento’s defense is a different story. The Kings allow the third-most points per game (118.4) and own the sixth-worst defensive rating (115.9) in the NBA.

“There still is a reason that some of their defense is just bad luck because they don’t foul, they get every defensive rebound, they force a decent amount of turnovers,” Lowe said. “They are allowing a lot of mid-range shots. Teams are just making everything from everywhere against them.

“They might be a little bit better than 25th on defense.”

The numbers back up Lowe’s comments. Sacramento grabs the fifth-highest clip of defensive rebounds in the league (73.5 percent) and rank in the middle of the pack in turnovers forced per game (14.3). When playing against the Kings, opponents are shooting 37.5 percent from 3-point range (third-highest in the NBA) and 49.6 percent from the field (second-highest in the NBA).

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Despite the defensive struggles, the national conversation around the Kings is starting to shift towards respecting their playoff potential, something the locker room firmly believes in.

“Honestly, Coach [Mike Brown] has us talking championship,” center Chimezie Metu said to NBC Sports California’s Kyle Draper and Kenny Thomas on “Kings Postgame Live” Monday night.

“That’s our mentality. Obviously, we need to clean up defensively. I don’t think anybody in the league can score with us.

“If we start getting stops, it’s going to be scary.”

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