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Kings light The Beam on Warriors in Game 1
Curious shot selection down the stretch of the game brings existential questions about Golden State's special brand of basketball. Gold Blooded rant incoming!
Normally when a #3 seed seed prevails over a #6 seed in Game 1 of a playoff series, it’s not exactly a big deal. The home team has the comfort of sleeping in their beds and having their routines; they also have their fans in a jubilant uproar to give them a healthy dose of momentum.
But last night when the Sacramento Kings protected their homecourt against the defending champions Golden State Warriors 126-123 in Game 1, it felt like a stunning missed opportunity for the road team.
The Warriors controlled the Kings in the first two quarters, building a 61-55 by halftime. The lead would stretch to 67-57 with 10 minutes to go in the 3rd period, and it was looking like the champs were prepared to KO the Kings early. At this point I hit up the DNHQ Slack and typed “DE’AARON FOX HERO BALL IMMINENT”. I knew that the Kings were going to get desperate and pray that their best player Fox could do something magical.
AND THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT HE DID. He scored 11 straight points in a stretch that kept Sac alive, willing the Kings to a 74-68 deficit. Golden State responded back with a champions resolve, pushing the score back up to double-digits at 86-76 to go with 3:07 to go in the third.
At this point, it felt like the Warriors were trying to slowly drag the Kings deeper and deeper under the splash like a territorial crocodile doing its damndest to wrestle a buffalo down off the riverbank.
BUT THIS BUFFALO FELT THE POWER OF THE BEAM AND WOULDN’T GO DOWN!
The Kings went on an inspired 15-4 run to end the quarter, lighting up the Warriors from beyond the arc. And then in the fourth quarter, the Warriors would chuck up 19 three-point attempts, making six of them hahahahah. That’s the kind of basketball that would make my grandfather scream at the TV that the Warriors need to fire Steve Kerr.
And yet the Dubs still scored 33 points for the quarter which is not a bad way to finish the scoring for the night. They just happened to give up 35 points to the Kings, who were able to cobble together 10-of-19 shooting from the field (5-of-6 from deep) in the final period, making 10-of-12 free throws as well. That’s super efficient.
I’m sure many Golden State fans would like to have a word or two with the referees on some debatable fouls called against the champs down the stretch that led to those free throws, but I digress. If Twitter and Substack weren’t having difficulties, I’d link several Tweets of folks wondering at some touchy whistles with the game on the line. But kudos to the Kings for putting pressure on both the Warriors defenders and the referees with downhill attacking down the stretch.
Fox finished with a heroic 38 points, cementing himself as a problem in this series for the Warriors to deal with, and hopefully for the rest of the league in years to come. He’s 25 years year old and living up to the hype of being the #5 overall pick in the 2017 draft.
It has to be pretty cool for Fox to challenge the very dynasty he spent the latter half of his teenage years watching. He’s a very fun player to watch, toggling impossibly quick drives to the rim with a pretty sweet jumpshot he can get to after stopping on a dime.
I expect the Warriors to find some adjustments to keep him from getting more comfortable.
Too many three-pointers or not enough for the Dubs?
Back to the Dubs’ fourth quarter 6-of-19 from beyond the arc stat. I’m convinced that the Warriors have a special connection to the power of the three-point shot that defies statistics or conventional wisdom.
How many times have these guys demoralized an opponent with feats of long range shooting that most humans beings who have ever lived could never dream of demonstrating? Over their dynasty, how many “9-0 run on three straight possessions” sequences have these Dubs conjured up with mischievous arrogance, sending opponents reeling from lightning bolts hurled from 30 feet away?
Sometimes I’ll get that sickening feeling that these Warriors are taking way too many high degree of difficulty shots from way too far away; sandwiched (or fueled?) by unthoughtful ball movement and scarce paint penetration. Last night I had that feeling, underscored by a very telling boxscore: 16-of-50 from 3PT range (32%).
Then again, the thrill of watching the Warriors try to win a game off shots like this…
…is a basketball dopamine rush that’s uniquely remarkable. Are we the Harlem Globetrotters?! Shots like this make me challenge my own presuppositions about the outcome of last night’s game.
Perhaps I’m primarily focused more on whether our ball goes through the hoop enough, despite there being plenty to be said about the Dubs playing sharper defense and crashing the boards better. Because all things considered, 123 points on 47.8% shooting from the field should be enough to win a basketball game.
Maybe my critique is too anachronistically tied to a different era of basketball where attacking the rim with vigor and maybe even getting some free throws out of it was the tried-and-tested move. The Warriors’ style (and now often the rest of the league’s strategy) sometimes resorts to spamming three-pointers until they light the scoreboard like a Vegas slot machine.
Last night, that plan was one more three away from working. Or one more great defensive stop. Or one better referee foul call. Or one less turnover. That’s how thin the margin of victory is, and that’s also why I’m still disgusted by how thirsty the champs looked on this possession for a damn three.
But as we discussed at the top of this piece, the home team is expected to win against lower seeds in the playoffs. Last night, the #6 seed was one Andrew Wiggins misfire away from stealing a win.
(Wiggins, the man Dr. Tom and I believed in from Day 1, is going to be a major key to this series. He couldn’t buy a three-pointer last night but this man’s defensive presence was fantastic, tallying 4 blocks. He scored 17 points in 28 minutes, looking quite spry in his first game back from his extended absence.)
If the Warriors win Game 2, they’ve done their jobs and drastically shift the momentum in the series. IT’S NOT A SERIES TILL THE ROAD TEAM WINS ONE.
That’s why I’m giddy about Game 2. How about you Dub Nation?