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Warriors learn to play through the pain in victory against Kings

In a season that has been difficult on and off the court, Golden State’s championship hopes rest on their ability to stay focused for 48 minutes at a time.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Sacramento Kings Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors beat the Sacramento Kings 112-96 on Saturday night, and if you don’t particularly remember that, I don’t blame you one bit. In addition to it being a busy weekend, with Passover, Easter, rent due and taxes fast approaching, the events that transpired both in and outside of the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento overshadowed the game.

Prior to the game, former NBA player Matt Barnes - who played for both the Warriors and the Kings - held a rally for Stephon Clark, the young Sacramento man who was horrendously murdered by police officers nearly two weeks ago.

All through the week, protests have taken place outside of Golden 1 Center prior to Sacramento games, while the city, and nation, have mourned.

So it was with myriad doses of perspective that the Warriors and Kings, with many players, coaches and front office members who have spoken at depth about the tragedy, tipped off their match. From the opening whistle, everyone was reminded that basketball is only just a game.

But then, once the game started, it was far from fun. In the second half of an otherwise enjoyable affair, Patrick McCaw drove on the baseline, rose up and was undercut by Vince Carter. After landing on his back, McCaw screamed in pain and announced that his legs were numb.

Ten long, scary minutes later, McCaw was taken off the court in a stretcher with his neck stabilized. The players inside the arena gathered on the court as one group, arms around each other, to regain some calm amidst the chaos and pain and to pray.

And yet, after all of that, there was still a game to be finished. So the Warriors tightened up their sneakers, shook off the nerves and took the court once more.

Finally, things began to click. The team that has been saddled with so many injuries finally had the bulk of their All-Stars back, as Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green all donned the bright yellow alternate jerseys.

The team found rhythm and chemistry, both before and after the scary injury, with Thompson looking as though he hadn’t missed a beat.

Kevon Looney was spectacular off the bench, once again providing stellar pick and roll defense and endless energy on the glass. As the broadcast duo pointed out, if you want to know how Steve Kerr is planning on using his bigs in the postseason, Saturday’s box score was likely at least some indication.

Looney played 26 minutes off the bench. David West got 15 minutes, JaVale Mcgee 11, and Jordan Bell 8. Zaza Pachulia did not play.

Those numbers will be shuffled around depending on the night and the opponent, but the message has been clear: Looney, who started the season with a slew of DNPs, is now the most trusted big man on a team in dire need of energy and defense.

When all was said and done, the Warriors had a 16-point victory and looked better than they have in a very long time. The offense moved the ball brilliantly, with everyone passing up shots in the endless quest for better looks for a teammate. The defense was focused and enthused, with crisp rotations and active hands.

Even without Stephen Curry, they Warriors looked like the great team that they should be.

It wasn’t an easy night. And today’s game against the Phoenix Suns won’t be easy either.

McCaw’s injury will linger over the team until there is resolution; not because of the lost on-court contributions, but because nothing reminds you that basketball is just a game like seeing your teammate and friend lose feeling in their body on the court.

Well, that’s not true. For a team of socially conscious and active young men, seeing yet another innocent black man murdered with zero repercussions is the strongest reminder of all that, yeah, basketball is just a game.

Sometimes that perspective is exactly what’s needed to play freely and to fire on all cylinders. For one night, at least, that was the case for the Warriors.