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Three takeaways from play-in games: Did we witness the official end of Warriors dynasty?

Golden State Warriors v Sacramento Kings - Play-In Tournament

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 16: Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors reacts after missing a shot against the Sacramento Kings in the second half during the Play-In Tournament at Golden 1 Center on April 16, 2024 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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Things move fast in the NBA playoffs, so to help you stay on top of things, from now through at least the end of the second round, we will have nightly takeaways from the postseason action.

Did we witness the end of the Warriors dynasty?

It’s felt over for much of this season — and, if we’re being honest, part of the previous one — but because Golden State rose up and stole a fourth ring in 2022, it’s felt risky to shovel dirt on the grave of the Stephen Curry dynasty Warriors.

Sacramento didn’t just shovel dirt on it Tuesday night, they pulled up the backhoe and buried it — and in a cruel irony Harrison Barnes seemed to be driving the machine.

Much to the delight of Kings’ fans, who were enjoying some payback for last season’s playoffs, Sacramento manhandled Golden State 118-94 in the West 9/10 play-in game.

It was the end of the Warriors season, but it felt like the official end of the dynasty. Sacramento drove a stake through its heart.

Or, at least this was the end of the Warriors as we know them. Is this the last time we see the Warriors core three — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green — together in the same uniform? This image of Thompson leaving the court says it all.

“We need Klay back,” Coach Steve Kerr said postgame, but what they need more is a secondary shot creator next to Stephen Curry, something Thompson can’t be anymore. Thompson was 0-of-10 shooting on the night and can’t create the space he once did. He’s had his moments this season but Thompson just can’t be consistent. Chris Paul can fill a role on this team, but at age 38, he’s not the shot creator he was a decade ago, either. The Warriors need to shake up this roster.

The Kings came out running and established an almost frenetic pace to the game early, exposing the Warriors’ age and lack of athleticism. Jonathan Kuminga took a step forward this season, the Warriors need another one next season. The same goes for rookie Brandin Podziemski, who showed real promise. The Warriors need more players like that.

Golden State has big decisions to make this offseason. Stephen Curry is still a top-15 player in the NBA and they have him locked down under contract for a couple more years. Green got an extension last summer and isn’t going anywhere either. However, if the Warriors are going to retool a team that can chase a ring around him, major changes are coming to the Warriors this summer. Klay Thompson could be just one of those.

This team will never be quite the same unless ownership wants to pay for a nostalgia tour that looks a lot like what we saw Tuesday night.

Can Zion play on Friday against Kings?

In his first-ever postseason game, Zion Williamson lived up to the hype — LeBron James called him “generational” — and went off for 40 points against the Lakers.

Zion’s 40th point came on a driving layup with 3:14 left in the game, but the second he landed, Zion was noticeably grimacing and in pain and asked out, then went straight back to the locker room, not to return. The Pelicans couldn’t do enough without him on the court and fell to the Lakers 110-106, which means the Pelicans will host the Kings on Friday night with the winner advancing to the playoffs to take on the Thunder and the loser going fishing.

Will Zion play? Things don’t look promising.

The official line is that Zion has “left leg soreness,” and an MRI is coming on Wednesday. However, Shams Charania of The Athletic later reported this appears to be a hamstring injury for Zion, which tracks because he reacted like this was an injury he was familiar with and he has dealt with hamstring issues before. He also understands the recovery time with that injury.

If it’s a hamstring, he will be out Friday. The Pelicans swept the season series from the Kings 5-0 — and Sacramento is shorthanded itself without shooting guards Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk — but it’s a tall task to win that game without Zion’s ball handling and ability to just go off for 40 against anyone.

Can the Lakers beat the Nuggets?

The Denver Nuggets swept the Los Angeles Lakers out of the playoffs last season. The pro-Lakers spin is that these were close games — Denver was just +24 through the four — and Los Angeles wasn’t that far away. Okay, sure, but… it was a sweep. In crunch time, the Nuggets were flat-out better (+15 in clutch minutes in that series). Then Denver swept this season’s regular season meetings from the Lakers 3-0.

The Lakers are a big team that likes to play a physical, bullying style — Denver is one of the few teams that can match that size and is just as physical. And it has MVP-to-be Nikola Jokic. Every one of the Nuggets eight straight wins over the Lakers seems to follow a predictable pattern: Denver and Los Angeles keep it close for about 40 minutes — Nuggets fans would say their team plays with its food — then the Nuggets flip the switch, lean into the Jamal Murray and Jokic two-man game, and it’s over.

The hope in Los Angeles is that the Lakers are essentially healthy (outside of Jared Vanderbilt, but Gabe Vincent gave them good minutes against New Orleans) and playing their best basketball of the season. If the Lakers are going to have a chance they need to rain down 3s — D’Angelo Russell is on a heater from deep right now — and be at their peak, and now is the best time to do that. Beating the Pelicans also means LeBron gets five days off before having to play again to get his body right.

It’s a long shot, but the Lakers have hope. And as Andy Dufresne wrote to Red, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”