There’s a level of basketball that hoops heads chase. Like a snowboarder seeking powder stashes, or a surfer hunting a huge break, the ecstasy when the snow is waist deep, the barrel is pure, or Steph Curry and De’Aaron Fox are trading buckets at breakneck speed is unlike anything on earth. Whatever the most addictive drug is, that was Warriors-Kings on Saturday night.
The crowd for Sacramento’s first playoff game — and win — in nearly 17 years gave the contest Method-Man-and-Redman-playing-an-intimate-club type energy, and I’m surprised Kings fans weren’t chanting “Encore!” after the 126-123 win. The reintroduction to the postseason for the Kings also was their point guard’s playoff debut, and he more than met the occasion with 38 points.
Only slightly outdone, Steph Curry had 30 points, a lot of them in the fourth in typical mind-melting fashion, and Golden State played well. I kept waiting for the Warriors to go on their patented run in the third quarter, yet every time they flirted with a double-digit lead, Fox or Malik Monk would respond and send the Golden 1 Center into hysterics.
Andrew Wiggins was sharp in his first game back since the All-Star break even if he missed a good look at a go-ahead three with 10 seconds left in the game. The Dubs still had a chance to tie following a pair of Monk free throws, yet Curry’s runner from three at the horn just missed. And thank god because it would’ve stopped my heart had it gone in, and I want to be alive to watch the rest of this series.
The final period was just Fox and Curry trading buckets at a full sprint yet remaining in complete control. It was a ballet only if the two prima ballerinas had to plie between 6-foot-7 swingmen. Afterward, as is customary in California’s capital when the Kings win, Fox lit the beam. However, that lightshow paled in comparison to the one that preceded it.
Dubs flip switch, Kings always on
I know the announcers beat this storyline into the ground, but if you haven’t watched Sacramento play yet, what you saw — chemistry, effort, and talent — isn’t new. It’s how they earned the 3 seed. Sacramento is more or less the opposite of the 2022-23 Golden State in that Mike Brown and his squad had the switch flipped to “on” from the jump.
Steve Kerr has been playing the long con all season, which he’s allowed to do, so I’m not surprised by how well his group played. You could tell how much the Warriors valued stealing Game 1 because they know what kind of grind they’re facing.
Sacramento simply doesn’t know any better. They’re not going to pace themselves because their bodies bounce back like you used to when your liver wasn’t spotted. Basically, what I’m saying is neither of these teams is going to get out of this series without exerting a metric fuck ton of mental and physical energy.
And that’s precisely the kind of basketball I’m chasing. I want to watch guys play so hard that you can see their health bars drain. I want things to get chippy. I want to feel how much this matters to the players because I seriously don’t know if it does in the age of load management.
We’ve been getting a stepped-on, laxative-laced product since October. That’s not the case for the next month-plus, and if Kings-Warriors is the last stimulant that courses through my veins, I’ll die a happy man.