The Warriors on Sunday night played a dangerous game with their postseason goals and got away with it.
Sloppy throughout and exchanging leads with the lowly Kings deep into the fourth quarter, the Warriors made enough plays down the stretch to escape with a 117-113 victory at Chase Center.
Steph Curry scored a game-high 37 points, including three free throws inside the final 10 seconds.
Here are three observations from a game that elevated the Warriors (31-30) elevated from 10th place to ninth in the Western Conference and above .500 for the first time since March 22.
The Steph Show
Despite the common massive effort to defend him, Curry continued his strong closing kick in the MVP race that has moved into the sprint phase.
His 37 points came on 11-of-21 shooting from the field, including 7-of-14 from distance He made three 3s from 30 feet or deeper, adding seven rebounds and four assists.
Curry was plus-7 over 38 minutes.
That was enough for Curry to overcome his seven turnovers, including one with 13 seconds remaining in the game.
He needed only one half to reach 83 3-pointers in April, surpassing James Harden’s record for most 3-balls in one calendar month. With two games remaining, it’s conceivable Curry can get to 100.
With 21 days remaining in the regular season, Curry has moved even with Joel Embiid and continues to inch closer to MVP front-runner Nikola Jokic.
The Warriors over the last few games have picked up their defensive intensity and been playing at a top-five level. That’s necessary for them to have a chance to rise in the standings.
That effectiveness rarely surfaced in this game.
Even without star point guard De’Aaron Fox, the Kings rang up 39 points in the first quarter on 60 percent shooting, including 45.5 percent from deep. That was enough to shove the Warriors into the second quarter facing a seven-point deficit.
Buddy Hield (25 points on 9-of-13 shooting, including 6-of-8 from deep) and Harrison Barnes (23 points on 8-of-16 and 5-of-9) were particularly difficult to contain through the first three quarters. Neither scored in the fourth, as the Warriors got necessary stops.
No doubt the Kings (24-36), who averaged 123 points over their last three games, presented a bit of a challenge even without Fox. But the Warriors have to hope this was a one-night lapse.
Shuffling the rotation
How important was this game for the Warriors? When Hield drilled his first three 3-pointers inside the first five minutes, coach Steve Kerr quickly replaced Mychal Mulder with defensive specialist Gary Payton II.
How close was it in the fourth quarter? Kerr summoned Curry about one minute earlier than usual. One minute isn’t much, but it’s a break from the norm.
The first move was an attempt to slow Hield, who did not score against Payton. The second move required to offset substandard scoring efficiency from Andrew Wiggins (13 points, 6-of-15 shooting) and Jordan Poole (four points, 1-of-5).
On a night when the Warriors never found their “A” game, these moves were needed to give the Warriors their best chance to beat a team 5.5 games behind them in the standings and without its best player.