Improving defense keys Warriors win over Kings

SACRAMENTO — On the first possession of the game on Sunday, the Warriors blew their game plan for defending DeMarcus Cousins. It led to an easy dunk and early lead for the Sacramento Kings.

Just 18 seconds into the contest, Golden State head coach Steve Kerr called a timeout, unwilling to let an early mistake go uncorrected. It wasn’t the last time the coach would have to actively rectify his team’s approach to stopping a hot-shooting Kings team, but it was effective then and even more so after halftime.

“We knew they couldn’t sustain [making tough shots] throughout the game,” Kevin Durant explained. “You saw the third quarter, legs got a little tired, we were more physical and we got out and run. That’s the formula for us.”

And the Dubs’ constantly improving defensive production led to a 117-106 win.

Sacramento’s early lead swelled to as much as 16 after point guard Ty Lawson hit three midrange jumpers in a row in the second quarter. But after that point, the home team allowed their grip to slip.

Toward the end of the first half, DeMarcus Cousins — limited by the Dubs’ interior defenders and foul trouble all night — was whistled for his third foul, prompting the big man to return to the bench with his fists flying. After landing a heavy combination on his seat, Cousins was whistled for a technical foul, his 12th of the season.

His timing was as dubious as the call itself as Golden State was able to go on a 13-4 run to go into halftime with a much more manageable deficit.

“It means you’re doing something right if he’s not happy,” said center Zaza Pachulia, who received the lion’s share of credit for limiting Cousins to 17 points when he’s averaging 28.5 this season.

It wasn’t until midway through the third quarter when the Warriors would claim their first lead of the contest on a Stephen Curry pull-up 3-pointer.

A few minutes later, they had a 13-point lead.

“I always feel like when you play better defense, for whatever reason, the shots are more likely to go in,” Kerr said. “And I think that started to happen in the second half.”

It helped that Curry continued for the third-straight game to validate his status as a back-to-back MVP. He scored 30 points and is averaging 35 points per game over that span.

Durant also had an impressive game in the box score — but that isn’t where the story of this game can be found. It was on the defensive end, where Golden State forced 18 turnovers and apparently saved the life of assistant coach Ron Adams, the team’s defensive guru.

“Ron’s going to live a long time, but I think he’s going to die on the sidelines,” Kerr joked. “… Somebody’s going to give up a layup and he’s going to be on his way to heaven.”

Adams survived the first quarter in this game, and that was enough for him to get out of Sacramento with his life and the Warriors with their 32nd win.

Jacob C. Palmer
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Jacob C. Palmer

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