The Western Conference’s third seed Sacramento Kings and sixth seed Golden State Warriors meet in the first round of the 2023 NBA playoffs. The two franchises have never met before in the postseason.
More first round previews of the NBA Playoffs at Yahoo Sports:
(3) Philadelphia 76ers vs. (6) Brooklyn Nets
How did they get here
Sacramento Kings (48-34)
After the Kings traded rising star Tyrese Haliburton last season by pairing All-Star Domantas Sabonis with lightning-fast point guard D’Aaron Fox, general manager Monty McNair went to work the rest of his rotation, targeting shooters to keep them off the ground. His pick and roll combination. He surprised most forecasters, placing Keegan Murray fourth overall. McNair traded a first-round pick to the Atlanta Hawks for Kevin Huerter and signed Malik Monk away to the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency.
It wasn’t long until they made their mark. Huerter made 11 of 17 3-point attempts in his first two games, shot better than 50% from a distance for the first month and never dropped below 40%. Murray caught a starting job in 2 games of his career and made more 3-second runs than any rookie in league history. Monk played his way to the edges of the sixth man of the year conversation, scoring 21.8 points per 36 minutes off the bench.
The spacing the three provided allowed Fox and Sabonis to play in the All-NBA conversation, leaps and bounds that not many have seen this far in their careers. Fox averaged 25-4-6 on top shooting efficiency (59.9 true shooting percentage). Sabonis added a 19-12-7 on 61.5% shooting from the field.
The sentiment echoed across the list, and the result was an offensive rating of 118.6 considered the highest in NBA history. The Kings lost their first four games, won 10 of their next 12, and bet on being a serious contender in the West, marching steadily to 48 wins and their first playoff bid since 2006.
Golden State Warriors (44-38)
Warriors worked in the opposite direction. They entered the season as the defending champions, winning four of the past seven league titles, but lost key contributors Gary Payton II, Otto Porter Jr., and Nemanja Bjelica to free agency. The diminishing returns were such that General Manager Bob Myers traded in second draft pick James Wiseman to take back Payton, knowing full well that the 30-year-old had trouble staying grounded.
However, Golden State boasted Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, a trio of future Hall of Famers who each have starring experience as LeBron James. They also brought back Andrew Wiggins, a 2022 All-Star who served as the second best player in the title race last year, and newly minted $140 million Jordan Paul, a 23-year-old whose talent is only outshone by his unbridled confidence.
about it. Green punched Paul in the face during the preseason, earning a furlough and threatening to break the fabric of the most stable team in the league. The Warriors faltered from the start. Curry, Thompson, and Green are all in their mid-30s, and he appeared at various points throughout the season. Thompson hit a league-leading three hits this season, but still endured two losing seasons to surgery. The Greens are moving like they’re carrying them, too, and Curry has missed 26 games with shoulder and leg injuries.
The 28-year-old Wiggins was not immune from circumstances beyond his control. An adductor muscle injury cost him a month, and medical issues reported by his father kept him from the team for the last 25 games. He’s expected to return to the playoffs, and that could put the Warriors back in contention for the title, especially since Payton is back as well and free agent Donte DiVincenzo’s acquisition.
The Warriors were 29-29 at the All-Star break, with a slim net rating and sitting in ninth place outside the West. The urgency forced them to finish strong enough to earn a guaranteed playoff berth against a team that just ended a 16-year drought, and almost everyone thinks there is other equipment meant for the playoffs.
The shocking truth for Sacramento is this: When Curry, Thompson, and Green Wiggins all share the field, as they will in this series, they still outperform everyone else by 12 points per 100 possessions.
face to face
The Warriors won the regular season series with the Kings, 3-1.
Three of those meetings appeared on the schedule before mid-November, and the fourth came in the penultimate game of the season, when Sacramento was locking up the No. 3 seed and resting its Stars.
The three early meetings in total were decided by one point. Both teams posted offensive ratings equal to the bottom ten outfits against each other before climbing into the top ten this season.
Curry was ridiculous in those games, averaging 35.7 points in the 59/52/94 split over the three games. Wiggins was also integral to Golden State’s success against Sacramento, adding 25 points per game on 55.6% shooting from the field. The Kings did a great job keeping the rest of the Warriors in check.
Fox answered Curry by averaging 25.3 points in 52/33/77 splits in their three games against each other. Statistically, Sabonis was also a beast, averaging 21-17-6 in 52/40/82 splits, but Golden State outscored Sacramento by 36 points in the 90 minutes he was on the court against the Warriors this season.
Kings created 48 symbols 3 open or wide open per game In his first three starts against the Warriors this season, but Golden State hit a total of three in 16 less-than-good appearances. The home team has won all of its meaningful encounters this season, as has the team that shoots better than 3.
The quintet of Fox, Sabonis, Huerter, Murray, and Harrison Barnes sealed Sacramento’s only win against Golden State and achieved the team’s best fourth-quarter net rating among high-volume lineups (+16.5 in 100 minutes combined). The Kings have also had success with Monk or Davon Mitchell in place of Murray, and may ride one or the other if he or the rookie feels the weight of these playoffs.
Golden State Warriors
We know Curry, Thompson, and Greene Wiggins will be on the floor when it matters, as long as they are healthy and able to be. The Warriors have been looking for their fifth season of all time. Kevon Looney’s size and offensive limitations may not help Sacramento not diverge. Paul is not trustworthy. The Warriors re-signed Payton to mirror his playoff success last season, but he’s only played seven games since returning from a major muscle injury. Musa Moody, Jonathan Cuminga and Anthony Lamb are all inexperienced in the qualifiers.
DiVincenzo was Golden State’s fifth pick in free agency, and he earned that right, averaging 11 points (46/41/81 split), 4.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 28.2 minutes a game over the past three months. Only, he played seven meaningful possessions with the four-star Warriors all season.
Match to watch
Sabonis unlocked a Kings offense designed by former Warriors assistant Mike Brown to be the most prolific in NBA history. He’s the oomph that Sacramento shooters are all about, whether he’s running a pick-and-roll with Fox or running out of the high position, as five out of seven of his passes are assists on a triple play.
As often (and well) as Looney has performed defensively against Sabonis this season, the task of disrupting Sabonis’ influence will fall to Green, arguably the greatest defensive player of his generation. Green is a step slower than his debut, but as clever and annoying as ever.
Sabonis is also strong and collected, so it will be fascinating to see how far Green will push the boundaries of the business, especially if the Sacramento big man performs well enough to disappoint the 33-year-old.
Green played half as many minutes as Looney defending Sabonis during the regular season, according to NBA tracking data, but he held Sabonis to four points on one shot as the Kings offense slowed to the equivalent of 83.5 points per 100 possessions — a terrifying score wrapped in volume. limited sample. The Green Sabonis have given similar troubles in the past, and if he continues to make life difficult for the Sacramento offensive fulcrum, the Kings’ long-awaited return to the playoffs could be over quickly.
Golden State Warriors (-300)
Sacramento Kings (+230)
Warriors in seven.
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