The NBA’s highest-scoring team can play a little defense, too.
But scoring is still what the Golden State Warriors do best.
Klay Thompson had a game-high 27 points and Stephen Curry had five 3-pointers among his 22 points Saturday night to lead the Warriors to a 98-87 victory over the Sacramento Kings.
Averaging a league-best 120 points per game entering the night, the Warriors turned up their defense in the first meeting this season between the Northern California rivals. Golden State forced 14 turnovers and limited Sacramento to 34.5 percent shooting from the field, the lowest in the NBA so far this season.
”Our defense is what won us the game,” Thompson said. ”And it helped with a lot of opportunities on offense. Any time you get a stop, it’s easier to score on the other end.”
Golden State’s backcourt duo once again made scoring look easy with their streak shooting from long range, allowing the Warriors to build their biggest lead at 71-44 midway through the third quarter on Curry’s pull-up 3-pointer.
After combining for 46 points on 17-of-26 shooting from the field through three quarters, Thompson and Curry mostly watched from the bench in the final period while Warriors’ reserves finished off the lopsided victory that wasn’t as close as the final score.
Golden State’s lead never fell below 16 points in the fourth quarter until Sacramento reserves ended the game with a 13-4 run in the final minutes. The Warriors handed Sacramento’s Michael Malone a loss in his first game as a head coach in what’s becoming a heated rivalry. Malone, in his first year leading the Kings, was a Golden State assistant the past two seasons.
David Lee had 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Warriors (2-1), who shot 51.3 percent from the field. Curry handed out 12 assists, setting up Thompson several times on the perimeter.
Thompson followed his career-high 38 points in Golden State’s season-opening victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday with another high-scoring effort that had a sellout crowd roaring at Oracle Arena. His hot hand opened space for Curry.
”We feed off each other a lot,” Curry said. ”Klay’s a great shooter, and when he has that extra touch in his shot, you notice it and try to get him looks, and it makes our job easier when other teams have to really key in on him and it opens up the floor for us. It’s always fun to see him shooting the ball like he has in the first three games.”
Curry, who on Thursday became the fifth player in NBA history to make nine 3-pointers in a game three times in his career, threatened early to do it again.
He made four 3s while scoring 17 points in the first half, keying a 13-2 run late in the second quarter that gave Sacramento its largest lead of the first half at 49-28. The Warriors scored 17 points in the final 4 minutes of the half.
”They are two great, great shooters,” Golden State coach Mark Jackson said. ”That’s who they are and it’s amazing. They have an incredible gift and it’s a beautiful thing. And I thought our defense was outstanding. We did an outstanding job of being aggressive and taking their home-run hitters out of the equation.”
The Kings limited Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins, averaging 27 points entering the game, to eight points. Cousins scored the first five points of the third quarter but was held in check most of the game by Golden State center Andrew Bogut as the two big men waged an individual battle in the paint, bumping and grinding throughout the game.
Rookie Ben McLemore came off the bench to lead the Kings (1-2) with a career-high 19 points, Travis Outlaw had 15 points and 12 rebounds and Jason Thompson had 12 points and 10 rebounds. Isaiah Thomas scored 12 for Sacramento, which had none of its five starters score more than eight points.
That made for a tough night for Malone in his return to Oracle Arena, which he left disappointed in the play of his new team.
”Tonight was the one game that stands out that we were not ready to play,” Malone said. ”I thought our energy, the fact that we were not ready to play, is what set the tone all night. They come out, first two possessions, posted up Andrew Bogut and he got layups at the rim. No resistance, no fight, no pride. If we think that we can show up to a very good basketball team in their house and just go through the motions, what’s going to happen is what happened tonight.”
After Cousins’ five-point run began the second half, Marcus Thornton stole an errant pass by Curry and drove the length of the court for a layup that quickly cut Sacramento’s 20-point halftime lead to 56-44.
But after a timeout, Thompson drained two 3-pointers to begin a 15-0 run that put Golden State ahead by 27 points midway through the third quarter. The Warriors cruised the rest of the way despite being outscored 28-19 in the final quarter.
NOTES: Warriors F Harrison Barnes (toe inflammation) missed his third consecutive game to begin the season, but he participated in the team’s morning shootaround, is getting close to game shape and could return early during Golden State’s four-game trip that begins Monday at Philadelphia. … When asked pre-game if he considers the Kings one of Golden State’s top rivals, Jackson laughed and said, ”Come on, man. Yankees-Red Sox is a rivalry. Ali-Frazier was a rivalry. No. Neither of us has done anything.” … The Warriors debuted their alternative uniforms with white short-sleeve jerseys that they will wear during their six Saturday home games this season. … Sacramento owner Vivek Ranadive served as vice chairman of the Warriors before purchasing the Kings earlier this year. Former Golden State star Chris Mullin, whose No. 17 uniform hangs from the rafters at Oracle Arena, is an adviser to the chairman for the Kings.