The Golden State Warriors haven’t played like a playoff team lately, but, really, they shouldn’t need to in order to take down the Sacramento Kings. The Dubs’ recent slide might even help matters.
Golden State (34-27) was 2-1 and 17-9, respectively, heading into each of their first two matchups with the Kings (21-41) so far this season, and lost both contests by a combined six points. The second game was particularly infuriating because the Warriors had won seven out of eight and were only a week removed from beating the defending champion Miami Heat in South Beach.
Dec 19, 2012; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings shooting guard Marcus Thornton (23) drives in against Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson (11) during the third quarter at Sleep Train Arena. The Sacramento Kings defeated the Golden State Warriors 131-127. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
That win over Miami seems like eons ago, and not just because the Heat are currently in the midst of a 15-game winning streak. The Warriors have been humbled, coming off a three-win February, and are in something resembling desperation mode despite a win over the Toronto Raptors on Monday. Quite obviously, a third loss to a team 20 games under .500 would not represent a portent of good things to come.
All that said, it’s hard not to like Golden State tonight. The Kings, pesky as they are, are the NBA’s worst road team at 6-27, having won just one game away from Arco Arena (don’t complain, I’ll always call it that) since January 28. The Warriors, meanwhile, are 19-7 at home and have just begun a stretch of 15 of 21 at Oracle Arena. While they had their problems with the Raptors, the team looked more energetic than at the tail end of the horrendous road trip.
Andrew Bogut’s presence might also lend a helping hand to a defense that has been lagging, to say the least. Golden State has allowed nearly 110 points per game over their last 14, of which the Warriors have lost ten. Most troubling has been opponents’ ability to shoot open threes at will and barrels of second-chance points. The Dubs will have to plug the leaks on Wednesday against Sacramento, which has hit at least ten threes in six of their last seven games.
On offense, the Warriors shouldn’t have a problem putting up points and would be well-equipped to win a shootout even if the defense falters. The Kings are dead last in points allowed, giving up over 105 per game and didn’t have much of an answer for either Stephen Curry or David Lee during the two teams’ last square-off on Dec. 19. Curry made seven threes en route to a game-high 32 points, and David Lee made 12-of-17 shots from the field to post 29 of his own. Count on big nights from both of the go-to guys on Wednesday.
The Kings, on the other hand, can’t depend on their two stalwarts quite as much. Both DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans have scuffled in recent weeks, with Cousins seeing his field goal percentage creep closer and closer to dipping under 40 percent. Evans suffered a minor knee injury during his team’s loss to the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday and, while it is likely he’ll play, he may not be at 100 percent. Mark Jackson would be wise to test him early and often.
The Warriors should be out for a smidgen of revenge against the Kings on Wednesday, but their true motivation is to keep pace in the playoff push. Barring a total defensive collapse or uncharacteristically bad nights for Curry and Lee, Golden State shouldn’t have a problem accomplishing that.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (34-27) vs. Sacramento Kings (21-41)
WHERE: Oracle Arena
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. PT, CSN Bay Area
AT STAKE: Warriors look to beat the lowly Kings for the first time in 2012-13 and continue to build momentum at home.
PLAYER TO WATCH: “The Human Torch”, Stephen Curry. Look for a big night beyond the arc from Golden State’s star point guard.
PREDICTION: Dubs’ defense plays well enough to win. Warriors 112, Kings 100.