The Sacramento Kings and the Golden State Warriors capped off an historic, record-breaking flamethrower duel on Saturday night with a similar script to their first two contests; the Kings earned themselves plenty of changes, and matched the Warriors firepower shot for shot, but couldn’t hang in the closing moments. The Champions (26-14) pulled off the victory 127 to 123, and remain unbeaten by the Kings (19-20) this year.
The two teams combined for 41 threes on the night, the most in a game in NBA history. Buddy Hield went full nova, scoring 32 points on 8 of 14 from deep, and Justin Jackson added a huge 28 points with 5 threes (and tough defense) of his own as the Kings shot 20 of 36 from three as a team. But Stephen Curry (42 points with 10 threes), Kevin Durant (29 points and 9 assists) and Klay Thompson (20 points) all got good looks against a Kings defense that tried valiently—and mostly failed—to slow them down.
The Kings led 121-120 with 2:40 to go after one of the more beautiful drives of De’Aaron Fox’s career, but Sacramento’s offensive efficency ended there. Their final posessions ended in long heaves by Jackson or Bogdan Bogdanovic (17 points, 7 assists, 6 boards on 5 of 17 shooting) and a bad turnover from Fox, while the Warriors attacked the basket and scored in transition. It was a disapointing end from a team that had held their own through most of the contest. Fox was again kept quiet (8 points, 7 assists on 3 of 12 shooting) by the Warriors defense that played him physical on both ends.
As our buddy Robby Beigler said in his own fantastic way this week, the sudden rebirth of the Kings and the subsequent expectations born from that rebirth have made losses like this one hard to recon with. But in truth, these last four games have provided the best evidence yet of what the Kings are—they’re a team ready to compete with the mid-teir teams in the Western Conference, but they’re a step below the powerhouses. And it’s hard to accept moral victories when a real victory was so close, but there’s always growth to celebrate. Midway through the first quarter, a 22 to 22 tie was shattered when the Warriors brought the hammer down. A 15-0 Dubs run capped by three threes and a four point play gave Golden State a lead that would have ended any of the Kings teams from the last decade. But this Kings team is different; they may not be winning these clutch games against the Champs, but the growth is there and promises more close contests to come. That might not be enough for every Kings fan, but it’s enough for this one.
Sacramento’s schedule opens up this week, with games against Orlando (Monday), at Phoenix (Tuesday), Detroit (Thursday), and Charlotte (Saturday).