Warriors

Kings' rise to playoff contention should resonate with true Warriors fans

Kings' rise to playoff contention should resonate with true Warriors fans

OAKLAND -- Much of the Now Generation barely knows how the Warriors lived before being plucked from the trash bin by an ambitious ownership group actually sincere in its vow to pursue greatness.

Before becoming the super team that “broke” the NBA a few years ago, the Warriors spent the better part of 20 years wearing the league’s brightest clown suit. They were submerged in such a toxic stew of instability, ineptitude and avarice that 42 wins was all it took for their fans to express full-throated “We Believe” euphoria.

Belief meant snapping a 13-year playoff drought.

The Warriors were, at that time, about where the Sacramento Kings were at the start of this season. By coincidence, the Kings are trying to put an end to a 13-year playoff drought.

Even for the Warriors fan that would like to crush the Kings into a fine purple powder, it is refreshing to see the Kings making themselves significant. They come into Oracle Arena on Thursday night with a 30-27 record -- already more wins than they’ve achieved in eight of the last 10 seasons. They’re a part of a postseason race for the first time since the 2005-06 season.

“Great story, great for Northern California, great for Sacramento,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr says.

There’s a buzz in Sacramento that should be somewhat familiar to the Warriors fan of a dozen years ago -- or to those that remember the 61-win Kings of Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic, Vlade Divic, Mike Bibby, Doug Christie and Bobby Jackson.

The dazzling point guard, De’Aaron Fox is 21. The sharpshooter, Buddy Hield, is 26. Marvin Bagley III is 19, Harry Giles 20. Coach Dave Joerger is in the Coach of the Year discussion.

There are reasons why the Warriors have had difficulty shaking these dudes. After splitting four games with Sacramento last season, the champs this season are 3-0 -- but with a win margin of 3.3 points.

“I love watching them play,” Kerr says. “Dave has done a fantastic job with the team. They’re exciting, they’re young and fun and full of energy. They’re tough to beat.”

Such talented youth is why the Kings have a future that can’t compare to the current Warriors, but is considerably much brighter than the “We Believe” bunch.

When Kerr was asked about a potential Warriors-Kings playoff series, he politely, and wisely, steered clear. His prerogative.

Here, though, we think a Warriors-Kings series in the first round would be great fun to watch. It wouldn’t be terribly competitive, but the Warriors could benefit from facing a team that out to change its status within the NBA.

Indeed, the Kings and the Lakers are the two most captivating first-round opponents for the Warriors. Any time LeBron James steps on the court to face the Warriors, it’s an event. And the idea of a team on the rise and only 80 miles away -- and the former home of DeMarcus Cousins -- ensures electricity.

To be sure, the appeal of either far outshines that of, say, the Spurs or the Timberwolves.

As someone eager for playoff hoops the Warriors were not able to provide, I often drove up to Sacramento in April and May. I saw and heard a man run out of Arco Arena sobbing and screaming after the Shaq-Kobe Lakers came back for an overtime win in Game 7 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals. It was the third consecutive postseason that the Kings were ousted by the Lakers.

When the Kings were contenders, their fans were annoyingly loud and profoundly engaged. The equivalent of Warriors fans at their most vociferous.

[RELATED: Five issues Warriors must confront to clear path to another championship]

“That place has always had great fans,” Kerr said. “I remember back in the day, going into Arco. So I’m happy for their fans because it’s been a while since they’ve been able to really connect with their team. And this team is easy to connect with.”

It seems somehow appropriate that on Thursday the Warriors will honor the “We Believe” team, with coach Don Nelson will be joined by Stephen Jackson, Jason Richardson and Kelenna Azubuike at Oracle Arena.

If any fan can identify with the despair of those following the “Kangz,” it is the Warriors fan that remembers Keith Jennings and Bill Curley, endured Jason Caffey and Tony Farmer, and once saw Larry Hughes is the savior.

Michael Malone used Clippers' Game 2 win over Warriors to inspire Nuggets

Michael Malone used Clippers' Game 2 win over Warriors to inspire Nuggets

When you're getting your clock cleaned, sometimes you need something to inspire you to keep trying.

On Tuesday night, while his Nuggets were losing big in Game 2 to the Spurs, head coach Michael Malone used the Warriors' Game 2 loss to the Clippers to motivate his team.

"There was a timeout midway through the third quarter, I thought it was a pivotal point in the game," Malone told the media in Denver after the game. "We're down by 16 points and I could see it on some of the guys faces, you know, which way is this game going to go? And I reminded them we have 18 minutes to go. I reminded them what the Clippers did last night and how much basketball was left. It's only going to happen if we believe, we commit and we fight and we attack. And the guys took it to heart and we closed the game out I think on a 57-32 run from that point on."

A night earlier, the Warriors blew a 31-point lead at home against the Clippers, the largest blown lead in NBA playoff history.

As Malone stated, his speech worked. The Nuggets rallied for a 114-105 win to tie the series 1-1.

The Warriors and Nuggets, the top two seeds in the Western Conference, aren't breezing through the first round of the playoffs as expected.

[RELATED: KD, Kerr at odds over star's shooting]

Based on what happened on Monday night, the Warriors may be the ones in need of an inspirational speech.

Is Malone available?

Tim Hardaway, Kevin Durant on same page about Warriors’ game strategy

Tim Hardaway, Kevin Durant on same page about Warriors’ game strategy

Programming note: Watch the pregame edition of Warriors Outsiders on Thursday night at 6, streaming live on the MyTeams app.

Kevin Durant took just eight shots in the Warriors' Game 2 loss to the Clippers. He did attempt 12 free throws, however, and ended up scoring 21 points. 

"I'm not gonna go out there and just go shoot 20 or 30 shots," he explained to reporters after practice Wednesday. "I don't play like that. Every time I touch it, I'm not gonna just break the play. ... I'm gonna play basketball. We won Game 1 that way. We were up [31] in Game 2."

Durant's and-one dunk with 7:31 left in the third quarter gave the Warriors a 94-63 lead. With Curry on the bench in foul trouble, Golden State did look to run the offense through the reigning two-time NBA Finals MVP.

Things didn't work out as planned on this possession:

But a couple minutes later, Durant was alert and ready to take advantage of a Clippers breakdown:

Shortly thereafter, an aggressive-minded Durant got physical with Patrick Beverley and was whistled for two very questionable offensive fouls. 

During a radio appearance Tuesday, former Golden State point guard Tim Hardaway was asked if the Warriors should have KD try to repeatedly punish the smaller Patrick Beverley on the block.

"As a team, you can't let one player get your team out of sync. You gotta run your offense. You gotta run your offense the way you've been running your offense all year long," the five-time All-Star said. "If you keep posting up Durant -- you're letting the Clippers dictate the game.

"You're telling them we're gonna run a different offense than we normally run. No. Keep running your offense."

Hardaway and Durant are very much on the same page.

"I got a pest, Patrick Beverley, who's up underneath me," KD described. "I could definitely shoot over the top and score every time if it's a 1-on-1 situation. But we got a guy that's dropping and helping, and then we got another guy that's just sitting on me and waiting for me to dribble the basketball. 

"I'm not gonna get in the way of the game because I want to have a little back-and-forth with Patrick Beverley. I'm Kevin Durant. You know who I am. Y’all know who I am."

Here's a perfect example of what KD is talking about:

[RELATEDKD, Kerr at odds over how much Warriors star should shoot]

Durant didn't take a shot here, but he certainly wasn't passive or tentative. Just because you only attempt eight field goals doesn't mean you were tentative.

But one thing everybody can agree on is that nine turnovers is way too many.

How will Durant approach Game 3? It's safe to assume he won't be taking advice from Tracy McGrady.

Thursday night can't get here soon enough.

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