Warriors vs Kings Play-In Recap

Tuesday night, during the opening night of the NBA’s Play-In Tournament, the Sacramento Kings got revenge on their crosstown rival Golden State Warriors. Last year, the Warriors eliminated the Kings in the first round of the playoffs, and this year the Kings returned the favor, eliminating the Warriors from playoff contention entirely. The Kings now move on to face the New Orleans Pelicans for a chance to claim the 8th seed in the West, while the Warriors head into their off-season—a great deal earlier than most would’ve expected.

Despite both teams having equivalent records, and the regular season series being split 2-2, the game was played in Sacramento because the Kings fared better in their respective Pacific Division matchups. This slight distinction ended up playing an undeniably large role in the final outcome of the game for the simple fact that The Golden 1 Center—the King’s home arena—is an incredibly hard place to play at. 

Inarguably one of the loudest arenas in the league, the Kings took full advantage of having home court advantage on Tuesday night. While it is true that the Warriors were able to travel to Sacramento and get the win in Game 7 during last season’s playoff matchup, it took a herculean 50 point performance from Stephen Curry to get it done. The odds of the Warriors being able to pull another rabbit out of their hat, in Sacramento, in back-to-back years, were certainly slim.

With that being said, aside from the advantage of being at home, the Kings also had the advantage of having more youth on their side. Despite missing lineup mainstays Kevin Huerter, and Malik Monk, the Kings just flat out had more talent, energy, and focus, and the Warriors simply could not keep up with the dynamic trio of De’Aaron Fox, Keegan Murray, and Keon Ellis. 

The defensive guard combination of Steph Curry and Chris Paul was essentially a nonstarter when it came to trying to keep Sacramento’s guards out of the paint, and the ability of the Kings’ guards to continually get into the paint allowed an endless array of kickout threes. As a result, the Kings’ were an efficient 18-39 from distance on the night. Add onto that the interior size and physical presence of Domantas Sabonis—who despite not having his best game still managed to put up 16 points, 12 rebounds, and 7 assists—and the Warriors looked wholly outmatched from the jump.

The Warriors/Kings rivalry has not been much of a rivalry in recent memory, as the Warriors’ dynasty has dominated the Kings in nearly every way for over a decade now. Because of this prolonged dominance, the idea of the Kings actually knocking out the Warriors seemed almost unimaginable despite the many glaring signs that the Warriors’ dynastic run may be coming to an end. 

Despite the Warriors ultimately winning their playoff series against the Kings last year, the Warriors did not look like the Warriors of old, and the fact that the series ultimately went to seven games further showed that there were some potential chinks in the Warriors’ armor. Those aforementioned chinks in the Warriors’ armor were on full display Tuesday night. 

This disappointingly early end to the Warriors season brings many tough questions that the organization is going to have to confront in the near future. Is this the end of the dynasty? Will Klay Thompson be back, following a shaky year culminating in a 0-for performance? What about Chris Paul? Does Andrew Wiggins still have any trade value? As of now, the Golden State Warriors certainly have more questions than answers, and only time will tell which direction they choose to go from here. With that being said, as long as Steph, Draymond, and Coach Kerr remain in Golden State, bottoming out is not an option. 

The only choice the Warriors have is to continue fielding as competitive of a team as they possibly can. As for the Kings, they move on to a matchup against the Pelicans who are expected to be without Zion Williamson, who suffered a hamstring injury in their previous game against the Lakers. Although the Kings are 0-5 so far this season against the Pelicans, those games all included a healthy Zion Williamson, so the Kings are surely approaching this game with a totally different mindset. If the Kings are able to advance past the Zion-less Pelicans, they’ll have a matchup versus the 1-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder waiting for them in the first round.

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