‘By double digits’!? As Kings tip off, TNT analysts talk Sacramento’s chances in NBA play-in game

Before the Kings second postseason game got underway Friday evening in a win-or-go-home play-in matchup in New Orleans against the Pelicans, national TV analysts weighed in on Sacramento’s chances to advance into the NBA playoffs.

TNT’s “Inside the NBA” crew acknowledged that New Orleans held a 5-0 edge over Sacramento in the 2023-24 regular season.

But for two NBA legends, that didn’t seem to matter much.

Shaquille O’Neal during the pregame show predicted a big win for the Kings, saying he expected them to capitalize on the Pelicans losing star Zion Williamson to a hamstring injury during Tuesday’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. The larger-than-life big man said he believes that injury would have the Pelicans feeling deflated.

“I’m going with Sacramento tonight by double digits,” O’Neal said.

The often-opinionated Charles Barkley said he doesn’t usually root for a particular team — but that he wanted Sacramento to win Friday because the Kings would make a more entertaining matchup in the first round of the playoffs. With Williamson sidelined for an estimated two weeks, New Orleans would likely be swept by the top-seed Oklahoma City Thunder, Barkley opined.

“I just want to see a competitive series, because every series in the West is crazy,” Barkley said.

Kenny Smith called Friday’s matchup a “pick-’em” game, anticipating a close contest.

At the end of the first quarter, Sacramento held a 24-22 advantage. De’Aaron Fox led all scorers with 11 points.