Whenever the Kings are in Oakland, it’s a given that the game will be played at a frenetic pace.
Not only did Thursday’s game start out with that expected frenzied energy, it also ended with it.
A couple late Kings 3’s, a near Stephen Curry turnover and two Andre Iguodala missed free throws left the door open for Sacramento (30-28). But 64 combined points from Curry and Kevin Durant was enough for the Warriors (42-16) to survive, 125-123, thanks to a missed Buddy Hield floater in the closing seconds.
This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Warriors’ locker room at Oracle Arena.
Golden State needed a near flawless performance from its two top scorers.
Durant said every game they played the Kings this year has been rough:
“That’s the fourth game that we deserved to lose against this team. But you just have to figure it out at the end of games… Sometimes you’re not going to win it with the team game and the way we always play. Sometimes you’re just going to have to play streetball.”
Curry poured in a game-high 36 points with 10 3’s, six rebounds and seven assists. Durant added 28 points, nine rebounds and a career high-tying seven blocks.
The latter put together his usual offensive output, but looked like a new man on defense from before the All-Star break. Marvin Bagley had his way with all of the Warrior bigs, including Draymond Green, but didn’t have the same success against the All-Star game MVP.
Durant was credited with six blocks in the first half, with almost all coming on Bagley. A handful of them were more likely classified as strips, but either way his active hands gave the Kings all types of headaches.
Durant admitted he was fortunate on the number of blocks for which he was credited:
“I think I got lucky. Marvin Bagley being a rookie was just showing me the ball, and I was just swiping. Undisciplined type defense but I seen the ball right in my face, so I got five of those.”
And he capped off his defensive efforts against the Sacramento big on the offensive end with a poster over Bagley followed by a 29-foot 3-pointer to end the third quarter and pull the Warriors within two.
Steve Kerr was thoroughly impressed with his all-around play Thursday:
“I thought Kevin was tremendous in every aspect. The energy, the cutting, the aggressiveness, and then defensively he was all over the place. The blocked shots came inside, outside. I thought he was really on his game tonight in every way.”
It was a good thing the Warriors had fresh legs after the All-Star break, because they had to expend so much energy just to keep pace with the Kings who pushed the ball of makes and misses alike.
The Warriors were game, looking energized from the opening tip. Curry even showed off his hops just like in the All-Star game as he rose up for a two-handed dunk in a halfcourt set.
But that energy lasted all of 12 minutes. Whether it was the constant pace Sacramento boasts or a general return to regular season malaise, the Kings took it to the Warriors in the second.
Green said the pace of the Kings team takes a toll on everybody:
“Every game we play them dudes, I leave the game exhausted. I go home and I’m dead.
DeMarcus Cousins got run off the court, while looking largely disinterested on either end of the floor.
Bagley, on the other end, was locked in, not just scoring, but generating a ton of offensive rebound opportunities.
But Kerr kept going to Cousins despite his early struggles and it paid off in the end as he had a huge impact on the fourth quarter with six points and four rebounds.
Kerr said he thought overall he was a net positive:
“I thought DeMarcus played really well. He battled, he had a tough first half, but then really gave us a lift in the second half. Did his job, rebounded and gave us some key baskets.”
Cousins’ statline for the game looked pretty decent with 17 points, 10 rebounds and one block, but the quick back-and-forth action of the game did not suit him. And there are going to be games like this in the playoffs where Cousins just isn’t a match for a certain style of play.
It will be interesting to see the interactions Kerr and Cousins will have at that time.
For now, Kerr and the Warriors are semi-content with trotting Cousins out there even when it’s not the best matchup for him banking on the fact that his talent will win out in those situations — at least in shot spurts — much like it did Thursday.
But Green did say that it’s been tough for Cousins to be on the bench during crunch time:
“I think at this point now it’s probably starting to piss him off. But I know there will be some games that he will close, it’s kind of the way the cookie crumbles… But sometimes I think they have to protect us from ourselves… The way the game ended for him tonight, it won’t be like that the rest of the year. But you can’t get DeMarcus to understand that right now because he is a competitor and wants to close the game. And I understand that and what I appreciate about him. You’d much rather have a guy that want to be in there then a guy that’s trying to be out of there.”
It’s going to be a process for both Cousins and the coaching staff. But they still have many months to figure it out.
Oracle will see the Warriors just one more time before the calendar turns to March — Saturday versus the Rockets. After that, Golden State will take the road for the next four games.
Don Nelson, Stephen Jackson and Jason Richardson were present at Thursday night’s game as the Warriors celebrated the “We Believe” 2007 team. … Shaun Livingston was not with the team, he is currently with his wife expecting a child any day now.
Curtis Uemura is SFBay’s Golden State Warriors beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @CUemura on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Warriors basketball.