After ending skid, Warriors will host Kings
OAKLAND, Calif. — The surprising Sacramento Kings will attempt the unthinkable — beating the Golden State Warriors three straight times on the Warriors’ home court — when the Pacific Division rivals tangle Saturday night.
Both teams are coming off impressive wins, with the Kings having triumphed 119-110 at Utah on Wednesday, two days before the Warriors ended a four-game skid with a 125-97 shellacking at home of the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday. The Warriors will have to endure the second night of a back-to-back against a team that’s well rested. But Golden State will have a serious revenge motivation against a club that twice made the 90-mile drive toward the California coast last season and came away victorious.
The Warriors will see a Kings squad that’s vastly improved over the one that missed the playoffs for the 12th consecutive season last year. Sacramento’s 10-8 start is its best after 18 games since going 13-5 in 2005.
If the Kings have had a problem this season, it’s been dealing with success. They’ve been beaten in the game immediately following their two previous biggest wins — at Oklahoma City in October and at home against San Antonio earlier this month.
“We’ve just got to stay consistent,” said Kings veteran Iman Shumpert, who himself has had consistency issues. “We’ve got to pick an identity and you’ve just got to work to build.”
The Kings’ new identity is that of a fast-paced team. After ranking last in the league in pace of play last season at 95.6 possessions per 48 minutes, they’re running at a 106.8-possessions pace this year, which is the second-fastest in the league.
It’s helped the league’s worst offensive team last season (98.8 points per game) improve to eighth in the league in scoring this season at 114.2 points.
At the same time, it’s given the opponent more possessions, and those opponents are now averaging 115.8 points after the Kings held teams to 105.8 last season.
Shumpert has contributed to the improved attack with six games of double-figure scoring, including three with 17 points or more.
But he’s also had six games with six or fewer points, including scoring three or fewer three times.
The Kings will catch the Warriors once again without Stephen Curry, who is expected to undergo an evaluation on his strained groin on Saturday morning that will determine his potential availability for next week.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr on Friday labeled Draymond Green, who has missed four games with a bruised toe, as “day-to-day,” meaning he hasn’t been ruled out of making a return against Sacramento.
The Kings saw four different versions of the Warriors last season because of injuries. The one time Golden State had all four of its All-Stars — Curry, Green, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant — healthy, the Warriors went to Sacramento and won 112-96 in February.
Curry missed a win at Sacramento in March, he and Durant were absent for the Kings’ win in Oakland in November, and he, Durant and Green were all out when the Kings came to Oakland for a second time in March and won again.
Durant (32 points) and Thompson (31) led Friday’s demolition of the Trail Blazers, which ended the longest losing streak of the Kerr era.
The coach took time to explain why his club wasn’t panicking.
“It’s not anything that is new to the people that have been around the NBA,” he said. “You get banged up, you get in a little bit of a funk, the ball isn’t going in the basket, and you lose some of games. You got to fight your way out of it. Simple as that.”