NBA Basketball

Kings to face Pelicans clinging to playoff hopes

The Sacramento Kings' playoff chances are fading, but the team is still fighting.

The New Orleans Pelicans are just fading.

The ninth-place Kings will try to keep their flickering playoff hopes alive when they visit the Pelicans on Thursday night.

Sacramento (37-37) has won three of its last four games, including a 125-121 victory at Dallas on Tuesday night. But the Kings' chances of catching San Antonio, Oklahoma City or Utah for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference are very slim.

Sacramento was 5 1/2 games out of a playoff spot heading into the start of NBA play Wednesday, with eight games remaining. Even if the Kings win all eight games, the odds are still long. But it will not diminish the positive vibe the young Kings have created.

"The potential is crazy," Kings forward Harrison Barnes told the Sacramento Bee. "To see these guys in their first, second year - just kind of playing with so much heart, so much passion, definitely eager to learn - I'm excited to be with this group (and) compete alongside these guys.

"We're looking at next year. This year, obviously, things came together late with the roster and that type of stuff, but we're competing. We're battling. Every single time we step on the floor, that's another time that, hopefully, we're progressing in the right direction and building something."

Barnes joined Sacramento just prior to the trade deadline in a deal with Dallas that sent Justin Jackson and Zach Randolph to the Mavericks.

The Pelicans (31-45) have lost nine of their last 10 games, although they too have gotten some encouraging performances from young players.

Christian Wood, playing in his second game since being claimed off waivers, had a career-high 23 points, making 7 of 9 field goals, and had nine rebounds, six blocks and three steals in a 130-120 home loss against Atlanta on Tuesday.

"I definitely think I got a chance and I definitely think I made the most of it," Wood said. "I said at the beginning of the season that all I need is a chance and I'm taking advantage of the opportunity."

Rookie Frank Jackson has scored in double figures in each of the last 10 games, although he had to leave the game against the Hawks to enter the concussion protocol after scoring 20 points.

Pelicans All-Star forward Anthony Davis did not play against Atlanta and he is day to day because of lower back spasms.

Starters Jrue Holiday and E'Twaun Moore are already out for the remainder of the season and point guard Elfrid Payton is playing with an injured wrist, so the Pelicans sometimes don't know what the starting lineup will be until shortly before tipoff.

"You've just got to be professional," forward Julius Randle said. "You go about your job the right way, try to do the right things every day, play the right way. You try to let the rest take care of itself. I think the big thing for us is to keep playing hard, keep playing together, and we can live with the results."

Sacramento and New Orleans have split their first two meetings this season. The Pelicans won 149-129 on Oct. 19 at New Orleans and the Kings won 122-117 on Dec. 23 at Sacramento.

The teams will meet one more time after Thursday in the Kings' final home game of the season April 7.

--Field Level Media

Updated March 27, 2019

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