On Monday, the Cleveland Cavaliers will play in the third game of a four-game Western Conference road trip composed of: the Oklahoma City Thunder, Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings, and Portland Trail Blazers. So far, the Cavaliers are 1-1 as they lost to the Thunder (OKC swept the regular season series 2-0), and defeated the Warriors (Cleveland swept the regular season series 2-0). Now, Cleveland heads to the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California for a matchup with the Kings.
Since Cleveland and Sacramento are in opposing conferences, they only play each other twice a season. Monday will mark the first meeting this season, and they’ll meet for the rematch on Feb. 5 in Cleveland. Over the course of the last two seasons, these teams have taken turns sweeping each other. The Cavaliers swept the Kings during the 2021-22 season, but then the Kings returned the favor in the 2022-23 season. In their last meeting on Dec. 9, 2022, Harrison Barnes scored 20 points to lead the Kings to a 106-95 victory over the Cavs in Cleveland.
When you look at these two teams, they’re actually really similar. Heading into last season, I didn’t hear anyone talking about the Cavaliers or Kings as legitimate playoff contenders, despite Cleveland reaching the NBA Play-In Tournament and acquiring Donovan Mitchell in a trade from the Utah Jazz. Yet both teams came out of nowhere to not only make the playoffs but also capture high seeds.
Cleveland captured the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and took on the No. 5 seed New York Knicks. Sacramento won the Pacific Division for the first time since the 2002-03 season, which allowed them to capture the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference.
What was Sacramento’s reward? A date with the then-defending champion Golden State Warriors. If Harrison Barnes had made the game-winning three-pointer against the Warriors in Game 4, the Kings might’ve won the series, however, Barnes missed the three-pointer which allowed Golden State to win Game 4 and the Warriors would go on to win the series in seven games. Stephen Curry scored 50 points in Game 7 for the Warriors.
The Cavaliers didn’t fare any better against the Knicks. New York asserted their will on Cleveland over the course of the series, which allowed the Knicks to eliminate the Cavaliers in five games. Knicks guard Jalen Brunson was able to do whatever he wanted against the Cavaliers in the series. He was the top scorer for the Knicks in three of the five games.
Cleveland and Sacramento both have young and dynamic players on their rosters who make their teams go. The Cavs have Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Caris LeVert, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen, Max Strus, and Georges Niang. The Kings have De’Aaron Fox, Kevin Huerter, Keegan Murray, Malik Monk, Davion Mitchell, and Chris Duarte.
Cleveland is led by head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, his coaching tenure in the league spans 20 years. Meanwhile, the Kings are led by head coach Mike Brown. Cavs fans should be very familiar with Mike Brown because he was the head coach when Cleveland to the NBA Finals in 2007 against the San Antonio Spurs. Brown has been an NBA coach since 1997, but he didn’t get his first head coaching opportunity until the 2005-06 season with Cleveland. So that’s another thing that these two teams have in common; they’re both led by veteran head coaches.
After getting a taste of what the postseason was like last season, the Cavs and Kings want to get back there again. They both believe that their contention windows are open now and they want to go farther in the postseason this season.
The two teams will get an opportunity to see how they stack up against one another when they square off on Monday night at 10 PM ET at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.