OAKLAND – The Warriors have 24 games remaining on their regular-season schedule. They’ve got the Houston Rockets, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers on the slate, and they welcome them all.
They’re eager to face anyone, home or away. Well, as long as they are not the Kings.
There were two collective sighs of relief emanating from the Warriors late Thursday night after a 125-123 victory over Sacramento at Oracle Arena. The first was for the win, which wasn’t assured until Kings guard Buddy Hield pulled the string on a midrange jump shot with 2.6 seconds left. The second, and more palpable sigh, was because this was the last of four games against Sacramento this season.
That is unless the teams meet in the postseason, something at least one member of the Warriors would rather avoid.
“Every game we play those dudes, I leave the game exhausted,” Draymond Green said. “I go home and I’m dead.
“So, hopefully not.”
The Warriors swept the season series, four games to none, but every game was decided inside the final minute.
“This is the fourth game that we deserved to lose against this team,” Kevin Durant said.
“I can tell you the common issues that keep us from getting separation: turnovers and offensive boards,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr noted. “Down the stretch tonight ... just felt like they got every offensive board. When the game is on the line, you have to get the ball.”
The Kings pose problems not only for the Warriors, but also for most of the NBA, because they are the fastest team in the league and have plenty of length on the wings.
They are relentless. They’re on their toes, seemingly at all times, and that sometimes catches the Warriors flat-footed.
“They’re never out of it,” Stephen Curry said. “They put pressure on you all over the floor with certain lineups they have.”
Sacramento may be the only team in the league capable of making the Warriors look, dare we say, old and slow – because that happened at times Thursday night, and also in stretches of the three previous games this season.
“They are athletic and energetic, so they got a lot of extra possessions, probably seven or eight more possessions,” Kerr said. “It’s tough to beat a team when you have to do that, so we had to get some big contributions from Steph, KD and some big baskets from Klay (Thompson) just to squeak it out.
“If we happen to play them in the playoffs, we’ll have to clean that up.”
The Warriors emerged victorious because they have the kind of winning habits the Kings are trying to build. The Warriors reached the NBA Finals in four consecutive seasons, while the Kings have not reached the playoffs at all since 2006.
For the Warriors, this is business as usual. Curry submitted 36 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Durant delivered 28 points, nine rebounds, four assists and a career-high-tying seven blocks. Green made three 3-pointers, only the second time this season he has drained more than two in a game. DeMarcus Cousins had 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Find a way. That’s how the Warriors roll and it’s how they’ve had to play to beat Sacramento.
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For the Kings, this season is an awakening. There was some stirring last season, during which they beat the Warriors twice in four games, but now they’ve got an identity – and nearly as much confidence as young talent.
“They’re just lacking experience, in my opinion,” Durant said. “They’re going to be one of those teams to be reckoned with soon.”
For now, the Warriors would just as soon reckon with the Los Angeles Lakers, or the San Antonio Spurs or the Timberwolves. Yes, anybody other than the Kings -- particularly if you’re Draymond Green.