For Kings and Clippers, it's the playoff before the playoffs
The Sacramento Kings don't have long to get over a devastating defeat as they prepare to host the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday, two days after a quality win slipped through their grasp.
The Kings had a chance to defeat the NBA-best Milwaukee Bucks after rallying late on Wednesday, but they could not get off a potential game-winning shot in the final 11 seconds of regulation. They ultimately lost in overtime, 141-140.
On the outside looking in at playoff eligibility, just behind the Clippers, the Kings could have been looking at a momentum builder. The reality now is that they have lost four of their past five games, a stretch that incudes defeats to both the best team in the East (Milwaukee) and the best team in the West (Golden State).
Adding to the pain is that Kings rookie big man Marvin Bagley III, the second overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft, was diagnosed with a left knee sprain after an MRI exam on Thursday and will be out at least a week. Bagley entered Wednesday's game coming off three consecutive double-double performances.
Moving forward, it is the injury to Bagley that could sting far longer than the defeat to the Bucks.
"He's 19 years old and he has a lot of basketball in front of him," Kings teammate Buddy Hield said, according to the Sacramento Bee. "We have to be cautious with him. ... We've got to go to war with whatever we've got."
It is far from an ideal scenario on Friday for the Kings since they are trying to close in on the playoff-eligible Clippers. Los Angeles is in the eighth spot in the West, with the Kings ninth and just two games behind with 21 to play.
The Clippers are trying to build some momentum of their own with a roster that was reworked at the trade deadline earlier this month. Leading scorer Tobias Harris is gone, with Danilo Gallinari, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell picking up a majority of the slack.
Harrell had a career-best 32 points in a victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Monday and followed it up with 16 in Wednesday's defeat at Utah. The Clippers will enter having lost two of their last three games. They are 4-4 since Harris was moved to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Wednesday's matchup between the Clippers and Jazz also was a duel between teams fighting for playoff seeding, and the physical nature of the contest showed what was at stake. Friday's Kings-Clippers game should have a similar feel.
"Yeah, I'll tell you, it was as close as our guys can get to see a playoff game," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said after the defeat to the Jazz. "I mean, it was amazing how both teams are playing. Neither one of us could get our offense going. For the most part, it came down the stretch to loose balls. We missed some wide open, some great looks, but so did they. It's a loss. We'll just take it and move on to the next."
While Bagley will not play against the Clippers on Friday, the Kings are otherwise healthy with no other reported injuries.
The Clippers are still trying to get Wilson Chandler (quadriceps) on the court. He came over in the trade with the Sixers that cost the team Harris.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 28, 2019