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Preview: Warriors host fast-paced Kings to open final push to playoffs

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Golden State will come roaring out of the All Star break, opening with six games over just nine days

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Sacramento Kings
Remember when Curry made fun of how the refs treat Harden?

With only about one-third of the season remaining before the playoffs start, the Golden State Warriors are well-positioned to secure a top seed and ensure home court advantage. But first, they’ve got to finish what they started. The #1 seed in the West, Golden State is going to hit the ground running out of the All Star break - and hit it hard.

Six games in nine nights to welcome the Warriors back to the last leg of the regular season; Up first: the shockingly good Sacramento Kings.

WHO: Golden State Warriors (41-16) vs. Sacramento Kings (30-27)

WHEN: Thursday, February 21; 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: Oracle Arena; Oakland, CA

WATCH: NBC Sports Bay Area

RADIO: 95.7 The Game

Blog Buddy: Sactown Royalty

Priorities for the rest of the regular season: health and harmony

The Warriors have been very good (again) this year, but that doesn’t mean they can just coast across the finish line. With the second best net rating and sitting atop the Western Conference, Golden state will certainly count the first portion of the season as a success. But there’s still plenty to work on, both defensively, and with the offensive lineups and rotations.

Obviously the first priority is such an all-encompassing issue that affects every single team in the league that it hardly bears any discussion. But that said, the Warriors have a special relationship with rest and playing time.

“Our health will be the No. 1 priority, over everything, entering the playoffs,” coach Steve Kerr said Wednesday. “If we need to rest guys, we’ll rest ‘em.”

The Warriors are still working out the rotations after adding a major new component in Demarcus Cousins, so will be balancing between rest and run time for various lineups. Keep an eye on Cousins’ minutes. After being hard capped at something around 25 minutes, the newly acquired big man has exceeded early expectations and is pushing for an increased workload. The coaches are apparently open to it as well, ramping Cousins up to just over 28 minutes against the Utah Jazz right before the break. They then sat him for the next game (which was the second game of a back-to-back), which is likely going to be the model in the near future as well.

I don’t know what the ceiling is for Cousins minutes allotment, but if the team is comfortable pushing into the 30 minutes per game territory, I’d expect to see them stop tinkering and try to settle into some reliable rotations. Most notably, keep a close eye on what lineups coach Steve Kerr will employ in closing tight games. The vaunted Hamptons Five lineup has been less than overwhelming this year - while battle-tested, Kerr may opt for Cousins or even Kevon Looney with the finishing group.

How about them Kangz??

The Sacramento Kings are currently holding the 9th spot in a crowded lower tier within the West. Just one game separates them from the 8th seed, but there’s another very big star sitting behind the Kings who may have something to say about that.

There’s a very nice article by Richard Ivanowski over at our sister blog site, Sactown Royalty that broaches the subject of the emergent Kings team. In many ways, there are enough parallels to give fans hope. Even though the Kings haven’t sniffed the playoffs in 15 years, you can feel the change taking place in Sacramento.

Kings fans can find encouragement from this season, even if the team eventually falls just a bit short of the playoffs this season. For now, expect them to come out hard against Golden State; not only are we the top of the NBA heap, but the Kings know that they’ll need every win they can get.

Prediction

Fast and fun, but the Warriors are still going to be a little too much for the Kings to handle.

Warriors 120, Kings 114