NBA schedule release 2020: Kings game-by-game picks, season prediction

James Ham
NBC Sports BayArea

Despite 16 out of 320 players testing positive for the coronavirus this week, the NBA is ready to press forward with their eight-game restart.

On Friday afternoon, the league released the schedule for all 22 teams heading to the Orlando bubble to finish off the 2019-20 season. For the Kings, most of the schedule follows their remaining games, although they are out of order from where they were previously.

The one exception is a nice little gift from the league that saw a game with the Indiana Pacers disappear and a battle with the Los Angeles Lakers magically dropped at the end of the Kings' eight-game run. 

Can the Kings snap their 13-season postseason curse? Will it all be decided in the first game? Can they find the pace and tempo they played with last season and shock the league?

There are a lot of questions that need answering, but here is a look at the schedule and predictions on whether the Kings have a shot to make it to the play-in games that will decide who represents the Western Conference as the final playoff team.

Spurs

Date: July 31, 5 p.m. PT, NBC Sports California

Out with the old, in with the new? San Antonio has a 22-season postseason streak on the line, but they'll have to go to battle without big man LaMarcus Aldridge, who had season-ending shoulder surgery. Sacramento swept the Spurs last season and have split the season series this year. The Spurs also have the disadvantage of playing one fewer regular-season game than the Kings and Pelicans, which will make any postseason push difficult.

Season record against: 1-1

Prediction: Win

Magic

Date: Aug. 2, 3 p.m. PT, NBC Sports California

Last we checked, Al-Farouq Aminu was going to miss the restart and there was a huge question mark regarding Jonathan Issac as well. The Magic were just 9-12 over their final 21 games. This, like the Nets game, is a must-win for Sacramento. Orlando has talent, but their lack of 3-point shooting and offensive woes make them beatable.

Season record against: 0-1

Prediction: Win

Mavericks

Date: Aug. 4, 11:30 a.m. PT, NBC Sports California

Is Luka Doncic in shape? Will Willie Cauley-Stein sitting out the restart have any impact at all? Dallas is a dangerous team, especially with Kristaps Porzingis stepping up his game. This is one of the tougher matchups of the tournament for Sacramento. The Mavs weren't playing great basketball when the league went on hiatus and the Kings could steal one here and even up the season series. But Kings will be underdogs in this battle.

Season record against: 1-2

Prediction: Loss

Pelicans

Date: Aug. 6, 10:30 a.m. PT, NBC Sports California

The Kings wanted to play this game on March 11. They stayed on the court while the Pelicans sat in the visiting locker room at Golden 1 Center. If they had played that game, Sacramento had a very good shot of coming out ahead, especially with J.J. Redick on the shelf. Now that both teams come in healthy (in theory) and without the benefit of the home crowd, this is a true toss-up game.

Sacramento has yet to face off against Zion Williamson, and will have to make adjustments on the fly as the big man tears through their defense. It will take all hands on deck, including big men Richaun Holmes and Alex Len, both of whom have been a defensive difference-makers in their time with the Kings.

Season record against: 0-1

Prediction: Win but it's a nail biter.

Nets

Date: Aug. 7, 2 p.m. PT NBC Sports California

If this is the 2020-21 season, the Kings would be in a lot of trouble. While Sacramento has struggled against Brooklyn over the last two seasons, the Nets will be without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. The Nets play hard and they had strung together a three-game winning streak before the shutdown, but this is a must-win for Sacramento. Keep in mind that Brooklyn parted ways with head coach Kenny Atkinson right before the shutdown. Can interim head coach Jacque Vaughn pull this team together on the fly?

Season record against: 0-1

Prediction: Win

Rockets

Date: Aug. 9, 5 p.m. PT, NBC Sports California

This should be an entertaining affair, with 100 more combined 3-point attempts. The Kings stunned Houston once this season on a wild back-to-back. It's not out of the realm of possibility that they do it again, but the Rockets likely will be 7-8 point favorites in this game. Sacramento has to keep James Harden off the free-throw line if they have any hope. This might be the game coach Luke Walton turns to Corey Brewer to wreak havoc.

Season record against: 1-1

Prediction: Loss

Pelicans

Date: Aug. 11, 6 p.m. PT, NBC Sports California

This is probably the most important game on the schedule for the Kings. If they can get past the opener against New Orleans, the season series would be tied. If they can squeeze by in this game, they not only knock back their prime competition, but they also win the season series.

Season record against: 0-1

Prediction: Toss-up

Lakers

Date: Aug. 13, TBD, NBC Sports California

This was supposed to be a game against the Indiana Pacers, but the powers that be made a switch. This isn't exactly the best thing for Sacramento. The Pacers are a tough Eastern Conference foe, but the Lakers are the odds-on favorite to win the title. One bit of luck is that this is the final game for both teams, and it's possible the Lakers will have already secured the top seed in the West. If not, the Kings are in for a battle. Sacramento was burned by the NBA's Last Two-Minute report early in the season when they lost in the closing moments to the Lakers. Game two wasn't competitive. 

Season record against: 0-2

Prediction: Lakers take the night off, Kings win

[RELATED: Kings tab Gerould as interim play-by-play announcer]

Final Prediction

A 5-3 record might be enough to get the Kings into the play-in game against the No. 8 seed. The two games against the Pelicans will likely decide the fate of the Kings' season.

Portland, who the Kings don't play in the restart, has a slight mathematical advantage with the league, basing the final standings off of win percentage. They've played two additional games and while they are in a virtual tie with the Pelicans and Kings coming into the final eight games, they hold a .001 advantage in the overall standings.

Sacramento has as good a shot as anyone. Their remaining opponent winning percentage of 54.2 percent is middle of the road out of all five of the teams vying for the No 8 spot.

If they lose Game 1, the Kings are in trouble. If they can beat the Spurs in the opener, play the Pelicans tough and steal one win against the grouping of the Mavs, Rockets and Lakers, they've got a shot.

NBA schedule release 2020: Kings game-by-game picks, season prediction originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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