It seems that whenever the Kings and the Warriors meet, it ends up being a very exciting game that comes down to the wire. That trend continued tonight, as the two teams fought each other to a standstill in regulation and had to go to overtime to settle it, the fourth time in the past seven meetings that this has happened. Fortunately for us, the Kings easily handled the Warriors in the extra period, allowing them only four points, and Sacramento won their 2nd game in a row and fittingly tied the all-time series between the Warriors at 182 apiece.
Sacramento's starters all made huge contributions to the victory, and in fact played most of the game. Marcus Thornton got off to a rough start, but thanks to a brilliant 3rd quarter, he ended up with a game-high 28 points. Tyreke Evans played 48 minutes, and ended up with 26 points, 9 assists, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals. DeMarcus Cousins (21 points, career-high 20 rebounds, 2 blocks) and Jason Thompson (15 points, 16 rebounds) feasted inside against the Warriors, and combined to equal Golden State's entire rebounding total between the two of them. John Salmons continued to play very well, with some very good defense on Monta Ellis to go with 14 points, 6 assists, and 5 steals.
Golden State on the other hand got its main contribution from its bench, just as in the previous meeting in Oakland on Tuesday. This time it was Nate Robinson and Klay Thompson that stepped up. Robinson had 20 points (8-14 shooting), 4 rebounds and 4 assists in just 24 minutes and led the Warriors' 4th quarter comeback. Thompson chipped in 16 points, including the big three pointer that sent the game to Overtime.
As a team, the Warriors were absolutely phenomenal from beyond the arc. They shot 16 of 29 from beyond the arc, with Dorell Wright (24 points, 19 which came in the first half), Klay Thompson, Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry all hitting multiple attempts.
Sacramento wasn't bad from three themselves (10-22) but most of their damage came inside, with 56 points in the paint. They also got a bunch of 2nd chance opportunities thanks to 20 offensive boards, 13 snagged by JT and DeMarcus.
The first half was a back and forth affair, with neither team able to wrest control from the other. DeMarcus got it going inside early, but Dorell Wright was absolutely killing the Kings from outside. That opened the court up for other Warriors, and then they started hitting threes.
Golden State couldn't get anything going inside though, and that seems to be a new philosophy by the Kings. During the halftime interview, Assistant Coach Todd mentioned how the team had been trying to pack the paint more and more, and it has been working. Monta Ellis wasn't able to get many easy looks attacking the rim (thanks to John Salmons excellent defense of him) and David Lee, who usually kills the Kings, was held to just 10 points on 13 shots.
Sacramento started to finally pull away in the 3rd quarter, also known as Marcus Thornton Time. Thornton was a monster in the quarter, going 7-8 from the floor for 18 points and hitting all four of his three point attempts. Tyreke Evans also chipped in 8 points during the quarter, and John Salmons was huge on defense, getting all 5 of his steals here, leading to Kings breakaway layups. It looked like Sacramento would run away with the victory, up 11 after three and with all the momentum.
The starters were clearly not doing it for the Warriors, so Coach Mark Jackson did the same thing he did as in the last matchup: Go to the Bench. Also like last time, it was the right call to make. Sacramento had no answer for Nate Robinson who had 12 of his points in the quarter, and Klay Thompson took on the Brandon Rush role, hitting three after three. The lineup that was in for the Kings (Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton, Travis Outlaw, Chuck Hayes, J.J. Hickson) could not get anything going offensively, and more importantly was failing to stop them on the other end.
Eight minutes into the quarter, Golden State finally regained the lead, on one of those Klay Thompson three pointers at 95-94. John Salmons quickly answered back with a three of his own, but Nate Robinson tied it back up again, and a couple Sacramento turnovers later, the lead was 99-97 Warriors on a Brandon Rush dunk with just two minutes left going into a timeout.
The gameplan from here forward seemed to be to get the ball into Tyreke's hands. I was a bit confused as to why Marcus Thornton, who had a stellar third quarter, barely touched the ball in the fourth despite his reputation for coming up big in crunch time, and the fact that he's a much better shooter than Tyreke is. Nonetheless, Tyreke got the ball and missed a short jumper out of the timeout. The Kings defense held on the other end and forced a 24 second violation by the Warriors. This is where the Kings bigs come up huge.
After the shot clock violation, JT gets the ball inside for a hook, but it rolls out. Who else is there to clean up but DeMarcus however, and he gets the easy tip in to tie the game at 99. Nate Robinson comes down and gets open for a jumper, but misses, and the ball comes out to Dominic McGuire. McGuire, the one time King, cannot shoot the ball, but he can rebound and make layups. Tyreke Evans came up with a big block to save the bucket, but missed a long fadeaway jumper on the other end. DeMarcus got his hands on it, but that shot also popped out and fortunately it came out to John Salmons, who was clobbered by Nate Robinson. This sent Salmons to the line with 16 seconds left with a chance to take the lead back. On another note, Robinson injured his groin on the foul, and it sidelined him for the eventual overtime.
John hit the first free throw but was a bit long on the second, clanking it off the iron. Jason Thompson had a huge tap out however that went right to Tyreke Evans, and Golden State was forced to foul him. Tyreke made both of his free throws, and the lead was three at 102-99. At this point the only thing that could hurt the Kings was a three pointer, and it was the one thing that Golden State had done really well all night. You'd think that means the Kings would stick to their shooters right?
Wrong. Coming out of the timeout, Nate Robinson drove it on the line and the Kings collapsed inwards. Klay Thompson did a great job of coming around a screen on the right baseline and lined up for a short corner three. Robinson dished it to him and he delivered, tying the game. The final play of regulation was much the same as we've seen the past few years: Tyreke wanting the ball in his hands and nobody else touching the ball. I love Tyreke, and thought he had a wonderful overall game, but this is a habit he needs to break. He tried to shoot a fadeaway jumper over Dominic McGuire, and it missed, as is expected. Fortunately there was no time remaining for the Warriors to try their own game winner, and we went into Overtime.
The Overtime period saw a return to form for the Kings. They struck first, thanks to a John Salmons three pointer, and didn't let the Warriors come close after that. Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis came in after sitting the entire 4th quarter and were non-factors. Tyreke did a great job on Curry all night (11 points on 14 shots) and Salmons continued his good play on Ellis, whose only points in the period came when the game had already been decided and nobody bothered to guard him.
This was a good win for the Kings, and another step in the right direction. The team is playing more cohesively as a unit, and Marcus Thornton's return from injury and John Salmons' return to form are welcome sights. Hopefully the Kings can continue to play like this on the road as well, as 8 of their next 10 games are on the road, starting Monday against the New Orleans Hornets.