SACRAMENTO -- R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
The Sacramento Kings have been a mess for more than a decade, and teams around the league know it. But the 2018-19 season feels different, and in Saturday night’s battle against the defending NBA champions, the Kings put on a memorable performance that should stick in with the Warriors.
“I’m hoping we earned their respect,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. “I think they came out after two games where we had leads late against them and kind of nipping at their heels as a young team. I thought they tried to get us out of here early, and I was really proud of our guys that we weathered the storm and just kept coming at them, and hopefully we’ve earned their respect.”
Golden State hit the Kings in the mouth in the first quarter, outscoring the home team 43-29 after 12 minutes. The Warriors launched 11 3-pointers in the quarter, connecting on eight of them to foreshadow the historic night that was to come.
“Man, it’s been three times we’ve played these guys,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. “It seems like you get a great lead, maybe except the first one. They just come crawling back. Give them credit. Some of it’s on us not defending the transition as much as we should, but they shot the lights out tonight.”
The Kings didn’t wilt under the pressure. They bounced back in the second quarter, dropping their own 40-point quarter on the Warriors to trail by just one going to the half.
The 3-pointers kept falling for both teams as they took turns going on runs.
The Warriors hopped out to an early 10-point advantage in quarter No. 3, but Sacramento punched back, outscoring Golden State 32-15 in the final 9:33 of the quarter to take a 103-96 lead into the fourth.
Buddy Hield continued his hot shooting in the third, scoring 17 of his 32 points on 5-of-6 shooting from behind the arc. Hield set a new personal record, with eight 3-point makes on the night, falling just one short of the team record set by Mike Bibby and Omri Casspi.
“He’s a great shooter, showed that tonight,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said of Hield. “He’s consistently gotten better since his rookie year. He’s just confident.”
Hield disappeared in the fourth quarter, going scoreless in just over seven minutes of action. He had only one field goal attempt in the quarter as Thompson put the clamps on the Kings’ leading scorer.
With Hield resting early in the fourth, Justin Jackson caught fire from the perimeter. The sophomore wing scored 13 of his career-high 28 points in the final 12 minutes as the Kings tried to close out the champs.
“I think our mindset should just be going out there and competing every game, and I think that will earn people’s respect whenever we play them really hard,” Jackson said following the 127-123 loss.
Golden State kept hitting shots, but so did Sacramento. The teams combined to knock down an NBA record 41 3-balls on the night. The Warriors finished 21 of 47 from deep, while the Kings hit a stunning 20 for 36 (55.6 percent) from behind the arc.
With the loss, the Kings fell to 19-20 on the season, and they’ve dropped four straight for the first time all year, but they have been in every game and struggled to close out.
Sacramento also is 0-3 against Golden State, but the Kings have given one of the best teams in the NBA a run for their money in all three games.
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“That’s kind of what you expect now coming in here against these guys,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “It’s a game of runs. They’re probably the most athletic team in the league — fastest team in the league.”
The conversation with the Kings is changing. They give you 48 minutes of competitive hoops every night, even if they make mistakes down the stretch. If it’s respect they want, they are well on their way to earning it.