By Morris Phillips
SACRAMENTO–“Wake your *ss up!”
Coach Steve Kerr’s profane directive hurled at referee Jason Goldenberg wasn’t prudent or appropriate, but it certainly fit like a glove in describing a sleepy night of basketball at Golden 1 Center on Monday night.
The Kings came in despondent, the victim of too many close losses, and left slightly less despondent, thanks to a 111-98 win over the Warriors that was stained by a potentially serious injury to Richaun Holmes.
De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield led Sacramento with 21 points apiece, and Trevor Ariza and Harrison Barnes each contributed 18 in a game the Kings led by 31 points in the third quarter only to see the Warriors erase more than half that lead before the final buzzer. Coach Luke Walton emptied his bench early, mindful of the Kings’ quick turnaround with a game against the Suns in Phoenix on Tuesday.
“We continued to do what we wanted to do offensively,” Walton said. “We got better and made some progress tonight.”
The win interrupted a stretch of nine losses in 10 games for the Kings, including Saturday’s two-point loss to the Pelicans in which the NBA admitted Derrick Favors should have been called for an offensive foul on the game’s final play for over aggressively setting a screen on the Kings’ Ariza that created a path for J.J. Reddick to get the basket for the game-winning layup.
Entering Monday’s game, the Kings had an NBA-worst 10 losses by five points or less. The Warriors anemic shooting–almost from the outset–put an end to the Kings adding to that dubious total of close defeats.
The Warriors missed their first 15 3-point attempts, and scored just 40 points before the halftime break. That break was just minutes after Kerr went ballistic, frustrated with whistles that went in favor of the Kings on one end, and against the Warriors at the other. Kerr’s choice words got him tossed in short order. Ironically, Kerr opted to sit Draymond Green, after he was ejected in the Warriors’ home game on Saturday against Detroit, saying the veteran needed a mental break, caused by a draining season of losing following five straight trips to the Finals.
In getting ejected by Goldenberg, Kerr appeared to be needing that same break.
Ariza was the Kings’ catalyst early with three, first half dunks, and a pair of threes in the team’s burst that extended their lead to 15 early in the second quarter. Fox with his quickness, and Buddy Hield rediscovering his shooting stroke also put the Warriors at a disadvantage. Then with the visitors already reeling, the Kings came up with eight made threes in the third quarter to extend the lead to 30.
“It was just to be aggressive, get to the basket, and just try to create, obviously make free throws,” Fox said.
The Kings played without Bogdan Bogdanovich, who was still suffering from the flu, and Marvin Bagley Jr., who continues to be out with a sprained foot.
Mike Bibby, the Kings’ standout point guard from the 2002 Sacramento team that reached the Western Conference finals attended the game and received a nice ovation from the crowd. Willie Cauley-Stein was greeted by a mixture of cheers and boos in his first game back in Sacramento after he signed with the Warriors in the off-season.
Holmes was injured in the third quarter, and left the court in visible pain while holding his shoulder. The 6’10” forward/center has proven to be indispensable for the Kings with his scoring and rebounding, and any prolonged absence would put the Kings in a tough spot. Holmes leads the Kings with 13 double-doubles and his constant presence has made Dewayne Dedmon expendable.
Marquese Chriss was waived following the game, a move the Warriors felt was necessary in order to free up a roster space for emerging guard Damion Lee, who is signed to a two-way contract that would limit his availability for the remainder of the season. The 22-year old Chriss is a Sacramento native, and was forced to greet his friends and family after the game following the news of his release.