By Charlie O. Mallonee
Sacramento – The Sacramento Kings had to face the undefeated Golden State Warriors without DeMarcus Cousins and Darren Collison on Saturday night. The result should have a very predictable “blow out” by the Warriors, but it was not walk over win for the defending NBA Champions.
Golden State defeated the Sacramento Kings 103 to 94. It was a two-point game with four minutes to go in the contest. No one – Warriors fans or Kings fans – could believe this game was so close at the end.
The Kings played tough, hard-nosed basketball, but in the end, the talent of Curry, Thompson, Barnes, Green and Iguodala proved to be too much for Sacramento to handle with a short-handed team.
Frankly, the Warriors came out flat or overlooking the Kings in the first half. The Kings took an early lead in the first period and held that lead until the 3:35 mark in the quarter. Golden State stepped up their play with scoring from former King Jason Thompson, Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala. The Warriors established a 20 to 14 lead after one quarter. Most people in the building expected them to just continue to stretch that lead in the second period.
Golden State did open up a 14-point lead with scoring from Klay Thompson (8), Iguodala (4) and Marreese Speights (4). Just as the game appeared to be headed for a runaway, the Kings came back with a 3-point basket from Marco Belinelli. Belinelli was then fouled attempting a 3-pointer and converted three free throws to cut the Warrior lead to eight.
At the half, Golden State led the Kings 46 to 38.
Sacramento came out strong in the third quarter as center Kosta Koufos scored six unanswered points. The Kings cut the Warrior lead to one on a Koufos lay-up at the 7:31 mark. Sacramento then took the lead when Belinelli sank another 3-point basket from 25-feet out. Golden State then went on 12-0 run that again threatened to put the Kings away. Again the Kings – led by Belinelli – closed the gap to four points. After three quarters, the Warriors led the Kings 72 to 68.
The Kings continued to keep the game close early in the fourth quarter. Sacramento took the lead 79 to 78 on a Rajon Rondo 19-foot jump shot with 6:37 to play. The game stayed close until the Warriors opened up a 10-point lead with under two minutes to play. The teams traded baskets and fouls, but the Kings were unable to find that something extra to propel them back into the game.
The Warriors defeated the Kings by nine points, 103 to 94.
Marco Belinelli on Saturday night showed why the Kings signed him to a 3-year contract. He scored 22 points shooting 5-for-11 from the floor. The Italian sharp-shooter was 3-for-6 from 3-point range. He went 9-for-10 from the free throw line. Twice Belinelli converted 3-point plays from the charity stripe after being fouled in the act of shooting a 3-pointer.
Rudy Gay stepped up for Sacramento against the Warriors. He shot 10-for-25 from the field scoring 22 points for his team. Gay showed an aggressiveness that George Karl would like to see more of on a nightly basis.
Rajon Rondo handled the point for 44 minutes against Golden State. With Darren Collison inactive due to a hamstring issue, Rondo was the only point guard on the floor for Sacramento. He put together a rare triple-double scoring 14 points, pulling down 12 rebounds and dishing out 15 assists. After the game Kings head coach George Karl said, “He knows how to do that, he has great history of leading teams and tonight he was very special.”
Center Kosta Koufos recorded a double-double scoring 12 points and hauling in 10 rebounds. Omri Casspi put up 10 points. Willie Cauley-Stein added six points with two nice finishes off lob passes under the basket.
The Kings shot .437 (38-for-87) from the field. They went 6-for-19 (.316) from 3-point range. The team continued to improve from the free throw line making 12 of 16 attempts (.750).
Sacramento turned the ball over 22 times which resulted in 29 Golden State points. The Kings were out-rebounded 46 to 45.
Steph Curry led the Golden State scoring with 24 points. Curry scored 21 of those points in the second half of the game. He did not have a great game from beyond the 3-point line shooting just 2-for10 from long distance.
The much anticipated Curry versus Curry match up did not occur as Seth Curry did not play for the Kings. Seth Curry was nursing an ankle sprain coming into the game.
Klay Thompson put up 18 points shooting 7-for-16 from the floor and hitting on 4 of 11 3-point opportunities.
Harrison Barnes (13), Draymond Green (10), Festus Ezeli (10), and Andre Iguodala (14) all scored in double figures for the Warriors. Ezeli made it a double-double game by recording 12 rebounds.
As a team, Golden State shot .413 (38-for-92) from the field. They were a dismal .205 (8-for-39) from 3-point land. The Warriors were impressive at the free throw line converting 19 of 22 opportunities (.864).
The Warriors scored 19 points off second chance opportunities. The Kings scored nine second chance points.
What they said after the game
“It was a pretty impressive game, but they (Kings) have fought through four games in five nights. Obviously there was some fatigue there (shown by) our turnovers in the first half. They kept fighting. I thought our leader was Rondo. Rondo was incredibly into the game, incredibly intense. His defense on (Stephen) Curry was first class. I just wish we would have (had) more gas in the tank to finish off the game,” said Coach George Karl.
“There’s a lot of good we can take out of it (the game) as a team,” explained Rudy Gay. “But I think we’re overdue for a win – we need one bad. It’s another game I thought we could’ve had.”
“Our guys played hard and we knew it would be a tough game coming in,” said Warriors interim head coach Luke Walton.”Sacramento – they compete. Like I said before the game, they haven’t been winning a lot of games but they’ve been playing hard and (been) in the games. We couldn’t get out shots to go in tonight which happens but we found a way like you said to grind it out and come out with a victory.”
“Definitely not pretty but we overcame missed shots, turnovers, kind of a sluggish first half,” said Stephen Curry after the game. “With our defense, we gave ourselves an opportunity to have some minute runs. Pretty much had control of the game the whole way through. They made a decent run to take the lead by one in the fourth. Made some plays down the stretch and pulled it out. That defense allowed us to overcome a poor shooting night.”
The Kings have Sunday off, but their day of rest will be short lived. Sacramento will host the very talented San Antonio Spurs on Monday night. DeMarcus Cousins is expected to be available for that game.
The Warriors will also have Sunday off and return to action on Monday night hosting the Detroit Pistons.