The Kings Win Is More Important Than You Might Think
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Having lost five of their last six games, on Sunday night the Warriors were on the brink of extending that streak to six for seven after squandering a 16-point lead against the lowly Kings. Their defensive game plan that consisted almost entirely of getting inside DeMarcus (Boogie) Cousins’ head had blown up in their face, as Cousins absolutely torched the Dubs — specifically Andrew Bogut — by shooting 10-13 for 24 points. Then, when it seemed that they would slouch to another disappointing loss, their game plan finally worked.
With just under four minutes to play, Bogut leaned into an elbow from Cousins as he fought for position on the block, drawing an offensive foul. The heated Cousins had to be restrained by teammates, and eventually told to cool off on the bench. On the next Warriors possession Klay Thompson hit a three-pointer to give the Warriors the lead. It was back and forth from there, with Curry handling the scoring load. Their last five possessions: Curry bank shot, Curry left-handed floater, Curry jumper off iso, Draymond Green tip-in off of Curry miss, two Curry free throws.
Yet even after scoring on their last six possessions of the game, the Warriors were still only up two when Isaiah Thomas Jr. drove the lane with under five seconds to play. But Bogut, on a night when he had looked silly on numerous defensive sets, again provided a pivotal play, this time with a block of Thomas’ layup.
And that is how good NBA teams win close games — clutch shooting from your star and heady plays on defense. Sacramento had the crowd excited, they had their hot-tempered center playing possibly the most efficient, under-control game of his life, and yet it still wasn’t good enough to beat the Warriors. I’m not saying that this was some statement win for the Dubs, because it wasn’t. But these are the games that playoff teams have to have. When you’re on a losing streak and playing a team you should beat, even on the road, you have to find a way to get that win. No matter what. And I think the players understood that, just look at Curry’s reaction after Bogut’s block to win the game.
That is the sign of a team who gets it.
Now onto the analysis:
Scoring 115 points is always a good thing, but again turnovers — especially early in the game — plagued the Dubs. Along with his game-high 36 points and 10 assists, Curry dealt 7 turnovers to the Kings. That is a number he knows is far too high. On the bright side, though, his dimes to Klay are so much fun to watch. Anytime he sees Thompson’s jersey, you can bet he’s feeding him the ball, and Thompson did the rest on Sunday night, shooting 8-11 from three (a career high) and 11-19 overall.
The Warriors run a play, oftentimes in transition, where they will have a guard come and set an on-ball screen against Steph’s man. This is the most effective play the Dubs run and it isn’t even close. Because opposing guards aren’t used to hedging out on screens, as they’re usually the ones trying to fight through them, Steph gets a great look at a three almost every time. If they choose to double Steph or hedge too far, either Klay Thompson or Draymond Green is left wide-open. The high two-guard screen is a simple but brilliant use of personnel by Mark Jackson.
Allowing 113 points is never a good thing, and as mentioned before the Dubs did not execute their game plan defensively. If DeMarcus Cousins hadn’t been in foul trouble, the game would have gone much differently. In just 21 minutes of play Cousins had 24 points and 6 boards, while posting a +19 in the +/- column. Those are absolutely gargantuan numbers, and it’s a huge slap in the face to Bogut’s defense. Cousins took him outside and hit jumpers in his eye, he went by him on face-ups to the rim, and he even bodied him down low for a couple of buckets late. Against the quicker, more athletic Cousins, Bogut needs help down low. There are very few centers that can wreak that kind of havoc on Bogut, but Cousins, when his mind is right, is assuredly one of them.
Yet Cousins was far from the Dubs’ only reason for frustration. Marcus Thornton hit some big shots, Isaiah Thomas was extremely shifty and pestilent with the ball in his hands, and Patrick Patterson didn’t miss a single shot all game (8-8). A lot of credit has to be given to the Kings: they are an extremely deep, talented group that play with a level of excitement that sometimes overshadowed the Warriors. The Dubs didn’t want guys like Ben McLemore, who had 19 points in the last matchup, to beat them, and he was held to just four points. But other guys did. This is a young squad reminiscent of the Warriors from two seasons ago: they don’t have that veteran savvy to get them over the hump, but they have a strong nucleus of young guys that are capable of playing with almost every team in the league.
- I love Jermaine O’Neal. He plays hard for however many minutes he gets, and he took yet another charge on Sunday. (Is anybody tracking how many he has on the season? 12? 15?)
- I watched the game on League Pass and was listening to the Kings announcers (Jerry Reynolds and Grant Napier) who, although they’re no Fitz and Barnett, are very fun to listen to. My favorite term they used was calling Steph a “shootist,” as in a shooter that is an artist. Very apt.
- The Dubs opponent tonight, the Raptors, sit at 6-10 and are currently the 4 seed in the East thanks to leading the Atlantic division. Comparatively the Warriors, at 10-8, are in the 8 seed in the West. That would be good for the 3 seed (depending on division) in the East. Ridiculous.
- I know this picture is really blurry, but if I am even half as big a Warriors fan when I’m his age, I’ll count my life a success.