OAKLAND — On Wednesday afternoon, Sacramento guard Buddy Hield revealed his confidence regarding the possibility of the Kings snapping a 12-year playoff drought this season.
“[I’m] very confident,” he said to reporters according to ESPN. “I’d bet my house on it.”
Only a few hours later, the Kings would come into Oracle Arena, home of the two-time defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors, and prove their worthiness of more than just a playoff bid. In a 125-123 Warriors win, the Kings showed the top team in the Western Conference just how difficult of an out they could be in a potential playoff series come April.
“It really depends on how much his house costs,” Golden State head coach Steve Kerr said jokingly after the game. “I love their team. I love what they’re doing. Every time we play them, it’s high energy, beautiful basketball and they’re tough to guard. They really put pressure on you.”
Golden State opened Wednesday night’s edition by scoring 35 points in the first quarter, led by guard Stephen Curry, who hit three of his 10 threes in the period, scoring 11 of his eventual 36 points in the first.
Despite taking six more shots than Sacramento in the opening quarter, the Warriors would only build a five-point lead after the Kings hit 52-percent of their shots. Hield would lead the way, hitting four of his five attempts for eight points.
In the second period, Sacramento began to settle in even further, going on a 20-6 run in the first five-and-a-half minutes. Rookie forward Marvin Bagley III proved to be the catalyst for the run, scoring 13 of his eventual 28 points in the quarter.
“Marvin was tough,” Curry said. “He came in aggressive. Had some good moves on the post, banks in a three. It was his kind of night. He’s obviously been playing well as of late and is showing why he was a top draft pick.”
Along with the scoring, Bagley proved to be a problem for Golden State on the glass. Securing four offensive rebounds, the Duke product recorded his ninth double-double of the season, finishing the game with 28 points and 11 boards.
Warriors forward Kevin Durant would battle with Bagley into the second half, tallying five of his seven blocks on the rookie. With his seven blocks on the night, Durant tied his career high, which he previously posted against the New Orleans Pelicans on Oct. 20, 2017.
“With Marvin Bagley being a rookie, he showed me the ball,” said Durant, who added 28 points. “It was undisciplined defense but I seen the ball right in my face and I got five of those.”
Throughout the majority of the second half, the Kings controlled the pace and direction of the game, pushing the tempo on Golden State. It wouldn’t be until the 11:08 mark of the fourth quarter that the Warriors would retake the lead.
Unable to create any type of separation, Golden State battled Sacramento in a playoff-like atmosphere, trading shot for shot and three for three. Former King DeMarcus Cousins, playing his first game without a minutes restriction as he returns from an Achilles tear that kept him out nearly 12 months, notched a double-double. He scored 17 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in 27 minutes, his longest outing of the season.
The weight of scoring for the Warriors in the fourth quarter, though, would be on Curry, who tacked on 11 more points in the fourth, while Bagley, Hield and newly-acquired wing Corey Brewer would keep Sacramento close with 22 combined points.
Down by two possessions and forced to foul in the final minute of regulation, the Kings pushed Golden State, as Hield knocked down a pair of threes to help Sacramento pull within two points with 6.5 seconds remaining, with a chance to tie or win on the final possession.
Hield would miss the game-tying shot, however, after hesitating to take a deep three and settling for a contested, fadeaway mid-range jumper.
“I should have pulled that b***c,” he said. “I should have pulled it.”
“I have no doubt in my mind that that team is going to win a lot of games,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “They’re putting it together and they’re doing a damn good job.”
As for a potential playoff matchup with Sacramento come April?
“Every game we play them dudes, I’m exhausted,” Green said. “I go home and I’m dead so hopefully not.”