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Kings end play-off drought, Mavs’ woes deepen

By AFP - Mar 30,2023 - Last updated at Mar 30,2023

LOS ANGELES — The Sacramento Kings ended their record-breaking 17-year NBA play-off drought on Wednesday as the Dallas Mavericks’ chances of reaching the postseason suffered a blow with a crucial loss to Philadelphia.

Sacramento, who had not advanced to the playoffs since the 2005-2006 season — the longest streak of futility in NBA history — clinched their postseason berth with a 120-80 rout of the Trail Blazers in Portland.

Malik Monk led the Kings’ scoring with 19 points while four other players made double digits, including rookie Keegan Murray, whose 13 points included his 188th three-pointer of the season — a new NBA record for a rookie.

Murray expressed satisfaction that the Kings have finally ended their long wait for a play-off berth, 12 months after finishing 12th in the Western Conference with a 30-52 record.

“We’ve had really good teams throughout that 17 years and I think this one exemplifies all of them,” Murray told ESPN.

“It’s really cool to be on this team but we know we have a lot more to do.”

The Kings sit in third place in the West on 46-30, trailing Denver and Memphis.

But while Sacramento are now looking forward to a play-off campaign, the Dallas Mavericks risk missing the postseason altogether just a year after reaching the conference finals.

The Mavericks slumped to a 116-108 defeat to Philadelphia, with the 76ers overturning a 12-point deficit as Joel Embiid inspired a fourth quarter rally to end a three-game losing streak.

Embiid led the scoring with 25 points, nine rebounds and four assists as Philadelphia outscored the Mavericks 27-17 in the final quarter to seal the win.

James Harden added 15 points with 12 assists on his return from injury while Tyrese Maxey finished with 22 points for the Sixers.

Dallas are now 11th in the Western Conference at 37-40, with only five regular season games remaining.

Luka Doncic led the Dallas scoring with 24 points while Kyrie Irving finished with 23.

However, Dallas were left ruing a feeble fourth quarter shooting performance, making just seven of 19 from the field as the Sixers pulled away down the stretch.

Doncic refused to concede defeat in the Mavericks playoff push.

“We still have chances, we shouldn’t give up yet,” Doncid said.

But the damage for Dallas was compounded by the fact that two of their nearest rivals for a place in the play-in tournament — the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder — both won on Wednesday.

LA bounced back from Sunday’s home loss to Chicago by taming the Bulls on the road in the Windy City, winning 121-110.

Anthony Davis produced a dazzling display for the Lakers at both ends of the court with 38 points, 10 rebounds, two steals and two blocks. 

LeBron James added 25 points while Austin Reaves scored 19 points and D’Angelo Russell chipped in with 17.

The Lakers are eighth in the Western Conference with a 38-38 record. 

Oklahoma City meanwhile occupy 10th place in the West — the last of the play-in spots — after a last-gasp 107-106 victory over the Detroit Pistons.

Jalen Williams was the hero for Oklahoma City with a layup in the final second to clinch a crucial win for the Thunder. 

Williams finished with 27 points to lead the Oklahoma City scoring, with Luguentz Dort adding 20.

In Phoenix, Kevin Durant returned from injury to help the Suns claim a 107-100 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Durant finished with 16 points in what was his long-awaited home debut in Phoenix, while Devin Booker led the Suns scorers with 29 points.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, Jrue Holiday erupted for 51 points as the Milwaukee Bucks downed the Indiana Pacers 149-136 on the road.

Holiday’s masterpiece came from 20-of-30 shooting while Giannis Antetokounmpo added 38 points and Brook Lopez 21 as Milwaukee edged closer to locking down the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

In New York, the Knicks ground out a 101-92 victory over the Miami Heat to remain within touching distance of clinching a playoff berth.

But the win was overshadowed by an injury to Knicks star Julius Randle, who hobbled off the court in the second quarter after suffering a sprained left ankle.

In Memphis meanwhile, Russell Westbrook delivered a vintage performance with 36 points and 10 assists as the Los Angeles Clippers outgunned the Grizzlies 141-132. 

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