SACRAMENTO — The Golden State Warriors prepared for their first-round playoff final with the Sacramento Kings by convening Saturday for an off-day movie session on an upper floor of the Chase Center, their home arena in San Francisco, where there is a panoramic view of the bay.
Coach Steve Kerr likes to hold his movie screenings there when space is available. Otherwise, he said, the team is stuck “in the dungeon downstairs”, outside his locker room. He was grateful for the open space, especially ahead of Game 7 on Sunday. It was a therapeutic experience.
“I think there has to be a sense of perspective,” Kerr said, “even if it’s just a nice view, a bit of sunshine, and a chance to breathe and to relax between games. That can make the difference.”
Something else can also make the difference: Stephen Curry. Nobody seemed more zen on Sunday than Curry, who led the Warriors to a decisive 120-100 victory by skewering the Kings in every way imaginable on his way to 50 points – an NBA record for a Game 7. He sank parabolic 3-pointers. He drove for the layups. He played with defenders.
Curry, who arrived at the Golden 1 Center in an all-black ensemble as if dressed for a wake, towered over everyone and added eight rebounds and six assists. He shot 20 of 38 from the field and 7 of 18 from 3-point range.
“What an incredible all-time performance,” Golden State goaltender Klay Thompson said. “It’s just a joy to share the backcourt with him, and he never ceases to amaze me.”
The Kings had a magical season — their best in years — but Curry is still Curry and the Warriors are still the defending champions.
Golden State, seeded No. 6 in the Western Conference, takes on the seventh-seeded Los Angeles Lakers in a conference semifinal, starting in San Francisco on Tuesday. The Lakers knocked out the second-seeded Memphis Grizzlies in their first-round series on Friday.
Sacramento led, 58-56, at halftime, by which time Golden State — a team known for years for gutting teams in the third quarter — went on with business as usual. After Thompson sank a 3-pointer, Curry drove through a mix of defenders to pick up a layup, soaking up the contact for good measure. The Kings’ Domantas Sabonis missed a float on the other end, then Curry scored again to make Golden State’s lead 7.
The prevailing mood inside the arena was not necessarily panic, but there was definitely angst. Curry had been in this kind of situation many times before, and none of it – neither the harsh environment nor the pressure of a Game 7 – seemed to bother him. In fact, he fed on it.
“He’s one of the best players in the history of the game,” Kerr said, adding, “The resilience and the work that goes into it, the focus, it’s amazing to watch.”
In the final moments of the third quarter, Curry found Thompson for an open 3-point attempt. Thompson made the shot and was fouled by Terence Davis of the Kings. The Warriors led by 10. They grabbed 13 offensive rebounds in the quarter, and Kevon Looney, their starting center, had seven. He finished with 11 points and 21 rebounds.
“The guy is an absolute winner and a machine,” Kerr said.
The Warriors and Kings franchises have long played within 100 miles of each other, but for much of the past decade they have produced very different brands of basketball – opposing brands of basketball. , In fact.
As the Warriors busied themselves winning championships (four), making NBA Finals (six) and rethinking the way basketball is played thanks to the Splash Brothers (Curry and Thompson), the Kings have spent the last decade fighting through a wasteland of futility that had them bordering on insignificance.
Sacramento went 30-52 last season, which was more or less the same thing: a 16th consecutive losing campaign. But the Kings were at least showing signs that they wanted to improve, that they wanted to change their reputation.
It was an overhaul that began last season when they acquired Sabonis, an All-Star center, at the trade deadline in a deal with Indiana. This continued into the offseason when they signed reserve guard Malik Monk in free agency, traded for Kevin Huerter, and hired Mike Brown, one of Kerr’s assistants, as a coach. They also capitalized on their position in the draft by selecting Keegan Murray, a forward from Iowa, fourth overall.
Sure enough, led by De’Aaron Fox, their All-Star point guard, the Kings went 48-34 during the regular season, christening each win with a beam of purple light shooting from the roof of their arena. “Turn on the beam! has become a rallying cry, helping to bury — if not completely erase — the dysfunction of years past.
On Saturday night, Brown dined at a Sacramento-area restaurant with her partner’s son. A small parade of young boys approached their table to ask Brown some incisive questions about the players on the team as their streak with Golden State drew to a close.
They wanted to know more about Sabonis’ right thumb, which he fractured during the regular season. They wanted to know more about Fox’s broken left index finger, an injury he suffered during the playoffs. They wanted to know if Murray would be ready to shoot in Game 7.
“And one of the kids was a Warriors fan, so they started teasing him,” Brown said. “And he was like, ‘No, I’m not! No I’m not!’ But he was wearing a Golden State Warriors hat.
More than anything, Brown said, he could feel their excitement — a type of playoff anticipation Sacramento hadn’t seen in years.
As for the Warriors, their roster seemed to be constantly changing during the regular season. Curry injured his shoulder and sprained his ankle. Andrew Wiggins, their starting small forward, left the team in mid-February for personal reasons and missed the final 25 games of the regular season.
Kerr, meanwhile, struggled to balance securing a playoff berth (not sure) and developing young players like Moses Moody, Jonathan Kuminga and James Wiseman, who was eventually traded. mid-season. Ultimately, Kerr continued to rely on the usual suspects — Curry, Thompson and defensive stalwart Draymond Green — as the playoffs came into sharper focus.
The Warriors welcomed Wiggins back for the start of the playoffs, then lost their first two games, which presented a new hurdle: Curry, Thompson and Green found themselves trailing in a playoff series, 2-0 , for the first time in their career. Maybe they needed a new challenge.
“Doing this for a decade is amazing,” Kerr said of his key players. “The energy it takes to fight challengers year after year, and to set up and win games, and do it again and again – there’s a reason these guys are Hall of Famers and champions.”
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