Kings meet little resistance in win over Blazers, but path to playoffs won’t be so easy

The Kings didn’t encounter much resistance in their regular-season finale against the injury depleted Portland Trail Blazers, but their path to the playoffs won’t be so easy.

De’Aaron Fox scored 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting to lead the Kings to a 121-82 victory over the Blazers on Sunday before a sellout crowd at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.

The Los Angeles Lakers won their game to secure the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference, leaving the Kings with the ninth spot and a much tougher road as they enter the play-in tournament.

The No. 9 Kings will face the No. 10 Golden State Warriors in a first-round play-in game at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Golden 1 Center in a rematch of last season’s seven-game playoff series. If the Kings beat the Warriors, they will have to go on the road to win a second game — against the loser of the New Orleans Pelicans-Los Angeles Lakers game — to make the playoffs as the No. 8 seed.

“It’s exciting,” Kings guard Davion Mitchell said. “We get to get a little payback for last year. We know they’re going to come in here with energy. We’re playing a home game and it’s going to be loud. It’s going to be physical, but I think we’re ready for it. I think the whole year, we’ve prepared ourselves for it, playing physical on both ends of the floor, and I think we’ll be ready.”

Domantas Sabonis finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists for the Kings (46-36). He posted his 77th double-double of the season, becoming the seventh player in NBA history to reach that total and the first since Moses Malone in 1978-79.

Harrison Barnes scored 17 points on 5-of-8 shooting with five rebounds, three assists and two steals. Keon Ellis had 13 points and three steals.

Dalano Banton scored 17 points for the Blazers (21-61) before he was ejected for a flagrant foul 2 in the fourth quarter. Banton finished 0 of 15 from 3-point range, setting an NBA record for the most 3-point attempts without a make.

“We just wanted to bring the physicality to them and kind of be the team that knocks them back, and I feel like we did that and opened up the game that way,” Kings forward Keegan Murray said. “We hit them in the mouth in the third quarter, too, so that’s what we wanted to do and we were able to get some rest for guys who normally play a lot.”

All 30 teams were in action on the final day of the regular season with much to be decided.

In the Eastern Conference, seven playoff spots still had to be determined. The Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers all had a shot at the No. 2 seed. The Orlando Magic, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat all had a chance to secure the No. 5 seed.

In the West, the Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves and Oklahoma City Thunder were tied atop the conference standings at 56-25, the first time in NBA history three teams have gone into Game 82 with identical records and a chance to claim the No. 1 seed. The New Orleans Pelicans and Phoenix Suns were fighting for the No. 6 seed and there were three teams separated by one game in the 8-10 spots.

Going into the game, the Kings and Warriors were tied for ninth in the West, one game behind the No. 8 Lakers. When the dust settled, the Suns had beaten the Timberwolves to secure the No. 6 seed and the Pelicans had lost to the Lakers to fall to No. 7. The Lakers held on to the No. 8 spot while the Kings finished ninth and the Warriors finished 10th.

“I thought we came out and took care of business,” Kings coach Mike Brown said. “We did what we could to control the little bit of control we had over our destiny and we got it done, and now we know who we’re going to play. We’ve just got to go out and execute and try to get a win.”

The Kings knew they couldn’t take anything for granted against the Blazers. Portland handed Sacramento one of its worst losses of the season on Dec. 26 in Portland, prevailing 130-113 despite the absences of Shaedon Sharpe and Deandre Ayton.

The Blazers were even more shorthanded this time. Ayton (back), Sharpe (abdomen), Malcolm Brogdon (elbow), Toumani Camara (rib), Jerami Grant (hamstring), Scoot Henderson (hip), Anfernee Simons (knee), Jabari Walker (knee) and Robert Williams III (knee) were all ruled out, representing 76.9% of Portland’s points this season.

Blazers coach Chauncey Billups cobbled together a starting lineup of Delano Blanton, Rayan Rupert, Justin Manaya, Kris Murray and Moses Brown.

Sacramento staged a 13-2 run to take a 29-13 lead late in the first quarter. The Kings went 11 of 16 (.688) from the field to start the game while the Blazers went 4 of 24 (.167).

The Kings went up by 26 points on a 3-pointer by Mitchell midway through the second quarter. They led 65-37 at the halftime break.

Sacramento shot 54.5% from the field and went 10 of 21 (.476) from 3-point range in the opening half. Portland went 15 of 52 (.288) from the field and 2 of 27 (.074) from long distance.

The Kings went up by 42 points in the third quarter and led by as many as 44 in the fourth.

Sacramento shot 49.4% from the field and 38.2% from 3-point range. Portland made 31.6% from the field while hitting just 7 of 45 (.156) from beyond the arc. The Kings finished with 11 steals, six blocked shots and a 19-6 advantage in fastbreak points.