Warriors Start off Strong, Falter Late in 98-93 Loss to Sacramento
After beating the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night, the Golden State Warriors (52-16) would be looking to keep the ball rolling against the Sacramento Kings (22-47). Both teams won their last game, and would be looking to pick up their second straight win. The Warriors would be without their three top scorers in Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson, who were all out with injury. David West and Draymond Green would be making their returns to the lineup though, and would be looking to lead the depleted Warriors to a win. The Sacramento Kings went on to win the game 98-93.
The Warriors got off to a very hot start in the first quarter, hitting on three of their first four three point attempts, and they had no intention of slowing down. Both teams shot the ball exceptionally well in the first quarter, with the Warriors shooting 66.7% and the King's shooting 50%. Quinn Cook was lights-out for the Warriors, and was a perfect 5/5 from the field with 13 points. Andre Iguodala hit a three to open the scoring for the Warriors, and Nick Young hit two threes as well, one of which came on an absurd shot at the buzzer. The Warriors finished the quarter going 7/9 from three, and Draymond hit one on the team’s last possession. The Kings were nearly as good, going 7/11 from three. Buddy Hield was really good off the bench, with eight points in just three minutes, including a buzzer-beating three. The Warriors only turned the ball over once in the opening quarter, and were winning, 36-29.
The second quarter saw the Warriors slow down quite a bit, and allow the Kings to climb back into the game. The hot start did continue for several minutes, and Omri Casspi was having one of his best games of the season, but he sprained his ankle after scoring on a flip shot, and had to leave the game, and that is when the tide went back out for the Warriors. The Warriors were unable to score from the nine-minute mark until nearly the three-minute mark, while the Kings were able to grit and grind their way back into the game. Buddy Hield and Frank Mason III were a big part of the Kings strong second quarter play, and they finished the half with 14 and 9 points, respectively. As a team, the Kings were shooting 50% from the field, and 55.8% from three. The Warriors were shooting the ball better than the Kings at 59.5% from the field, and 61.5% from deep. Quinn Cook was incredible in the first half, going 7/7 for 18 points, 12 of which came on threes. Andre Iguodala was also scoring the ball with relative ease, totalling 10 points on 4/5 shooting. The tide turned back in the Warriors favor as the quarter came to an end, and Quinn Cook came back into the game and was still just as hot as he was before. At the half, the Warriors led the Kings 59-57.
Both teams were ice cold at the beginning of the third quarter. Neither team hit any of their first five shots, and the Warriors struggled mightily all quarter, whereas the Kings were able to heat up down the stretch. Buddy Hield was still scorching hot down the stretch, and hit a mid range jumper just before the buzzer to tie the game heading to the fourth quarter. Bogdan Bogdanovic was also impressive in the quarter, hitting a three from Curry range as the shot clock expired. The Kings’ shooting percentage dipped to 43.8%, and they were shooting 48% from three. The Warriors’ shooting percentage fell off of a cliff, and landed at 47.4% overall and 52.6% from three as the quarter ended. Quinn Cook was still the leading scorer, and he had 20 points. Nick Young hit a couple shots too, finishing the quarter with 13 points, three of which came on a second chance three. After the third quarter, the game was tied 75-75.
The fourth quarter saw both teams go shot-for-shot, and it all culminated in the Warriors making some incredibly poor decisions in crunch time. Both the Kings and the Warriors continued to shoot the ball poorly, but each team made big shots in big moments. Quinn Cook hit a couple nice shots to bring his scoring total to 25, which is his NBA career-high. Buddy Hield continued to shoot the ball well down the stretch against the Warriors, and finished with a team-high 22 points. The game came down to the final possessions, and both teams looked like they hit momentum-shifting shots that would begin a cascade of points leading to a win, but both teams answered back. The Kings took a late lead on a mid-range pull-up from De’Aaron Fox, and eventually had a three-point lead. With less than a minute left, and the Kings’ three-point lead still intact, Draymond Green took a deep three and nailed it to tie the game. The Kings then went on to score thanks to a costly foul from Nick Young, and then the Warriors came back down on offense and Draymond took another deep three, but this time he did not make it. Nick Young then fouled again and the Kings built another three-point lead. On the last real possession for the Warriors, Nick Young got the ball and had his three-point attempt blocked to seal the win for the Kings, who were undefeated this season at Oracle Arena. The Kings won 98-93.
Despite the loss and the fact that the Warriors were missing three All Stars who average 73 combined points per game, this was one of the most exciting and fun Warriors games of the season. We got to see many of the young guys play with more freedom because they didn’t feel the pressure of getting Steph, KD, and Klay the shots. This was primarily evident through the play of Quinn Cook, who was incredible. He finished with 25 points on 10/13 shooting, and he could have had more if Nick Young had passed to him when he was wide open in the closing minutes, but that is beyond the point. Quinn Cook unleashed in a way that we had not seen up in the NBA yet, but he has been doing this all year down at Santa Cruz. In previous starts with the Warriors, he has done a good job on defense and done a great job at being in the right position at all times, but the scoring had not really come yet. If he continues playing like this though, the Warriors can afford to give Steph more rest down the stretch.
Several other Warriors players had good games, and the best game that I saw from someone who wasn’t named Quinn, came from Draymond Green. He finished the game with 14 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals, and 2 blocks. He did end up shooting 5/14, but that was primarily due to the confidence he had in the fourth quarter (which might have been a little too much confidence, but it was good to see nonetheless). Nick Young had 16 points, but did make a lot of questionable decisions down the stretch, and I think he cost the Warriors the game. He did hit a couple nice threes to help build momentum in the first half though, so that was greatly appreciated. Andre Iguodala was very solid in the first half, but was not great in the second half, he finished with 11 points on 4/10 shooting. Kevon Looney was also balling out for the Warriors. He finished with five points but also picked up two steals and a block in what was a very solid performance off the bench.
The Kings won this game, can they deserved to because they played much better than the Warriors did down the stretch, but should they have won? The Kings are currently competing to try and land a top draft pick, and to increase their odds of getting a top pick, they have to keep losing, and, uh, I don’t think that beating the Warriors is going to help their chances. Tanking has been widespread in the NBA this season, with around seven teams actively trying to lose games. The Kings benefitted from several strong performances, but none were stronger than the game Buddy Hield had. He finished with 22 points on 7/13 shooting, and hit some of the biggest shots of the game. He also had seven rebounds and seven assists off the bench, which was quite impressive.
The Warriors play next on Saturday, March 17, in Phoenix against the Suns at 7:00 p.m.