Entering the Golden State Warriors game against the Sacramento Kings on Saturday night in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs, there were questions about whether the Warriors could flip the switch in the postseason, and whether the upstart Kings could keep their composure under the bright lights.
The answer to both questions? An emphatic yes. But after 48 minutes of back and forth fighting between the two Northern California neighbors, the Warriors fell just short, losing 126-123 to fall behind 1-0 in the best of seven series.
Golden State started the first quarter strong, looking locked in on defense, and attacking the offensive glass. Klay Thompson caught early fire, scoring seven of the team’s first 12 points as the team’s traded shots. But turnovers once again plagued them, and Sacramento’s aggression on the offensive glass made it a razor-thin game.
It was more of the same in the second quarter. Andrew Wiggins thrived in his first game in more than two months, but the Kings were able to take every punch. The Warriors led by six points at halftime, but it was clear that they were deep in a fight that would go down to the wire.
The Dubs came out of the third quarter gates firing. They quickly pushed the lead to double digits, and you wondered if the inexperienced Kings would fold. But behind a superstar showing from De’Aaron Fox, who almost singlehandedly kept the Kings in it during the third quarter, Sacramento looked unfazed by the deficit and the hushed crowd. They came firing back, deleted the deficit, and took a one-point lead into the fourth.
From there it was tense. As tense as tense can be. The teams traded blows and traded leads, before a 7-0 run by the Kings gave them a five-point lead with three minutes remaining. The Warriors answered a few times, and each time Fox was right there.
Eventually the Warriors got the ball back with under 30 seconds to go, trailing by just one point. They moved the ball around brilliantly, and it found a wide open Wiggins in the corner for the go-ahead three, but the shot clanked out.
Golden State fouled, and Malik Monk made both free throws to make it a three-point game with less than three seconds remaining. But the Dubs advanced the ball, and a brilliantly designed play by Steve Kerr was able to spring Steph Curry free for a a fairly clean three from straight away.
He just missed, and the Warriors dropped the opener. Suddenly their back is against the wall.
Curry led the way with 30 points on 11-for-20 shooting, while Thompson added 21 points on 8-for-19 shooting. Draymond Green had a phenomenal all-around game, with four points, nine rebounds, 11 assists, and some sensational defense, while Wiggins and Jordan Poole dropped 17 points each off the bench.
But the Warriors now need to win Monday’s game, or else they’ll fall behind 0-2 to a team that made it clear they won’t back down.
Fox led the Kings with 38 points, and the Warriors will surely spend the off day trying to figure out how better to shut him down.