SAN FRANCISCO — The Golden State Warriors’ game on Thursday night was the biggest of their season so far.
With Draymond Green serving a one-game suspension and the Warriors down 0-2 in their series against the Sacramento Kings, they had a clear mindset: Don’t feel sorry for ourselves.
“We’re winning this because of Draymond,” Donte DiVincenzo told ESPN before the game.
“Understanding how bad of a decision I think the league made on suspending him, you’re frustrated with that,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “We have a job to do, and there’s nothing we can do about it. … We obviously understand the consequences of if we lost tonight, and nobody wanted to feel that.”
Curry added: “Pretty bluntly, if we lost this game it would be pretty much over. You’ve got to understand the moment, and we gave ourselves life.”
The Warriors didn’t just beat the Kings 114-97 to bring the series to a 2-1 split, they held control of the game for the entire 48 minutes, putting together one of their most complete games this season.
“Our guys were locked in yesterday when the news came in, and we turned the page pretty quickly,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “There’s no need to belabor the point. It’s just the league made the decision. You only have one path to take, and that’s getting ready for the next one, and that’s what our guys did.”
Unlike their two games in Sacramento, where the Kings dictated the pace of the game and had the Warriors playing frantically and sloppily, the Warriors controlled the speed.
They committed just 12 turnovers for seven points, compared with 22 turnovers for 25 points in Game 2. They ended with 19 personal fouls but had just eight through the first three quarters. And even without Green, who is key to facilitating their offense, the team’s ball movement was vintage Warriors — recording 31 assists on 55 passes. Under Kerr, the Warriors are now 29-3 when recording 30 assists. One of those three losses came in this series.
“That was the key,” Kerr said. “I think the guys understood what that decision-making was doing, forcing Sacramento to play in the halfcourt where we have been making it tough on them throughout the series.”
Said Curry: “It’s a good lesson for us of how to control each offensive possession, figure out how we can create space and create open looks and win the possession game, which has historically been a good thing for us, considering how highly potent we are offensive.”
In Green’s absence, Kevon Looney stepped up as a facilitator, and the team went 9-for-9 off his passes for 23 points. Three of Looney’s passes came directly after one of his offensive boards. He finished with 20 rebounds overall. As a team, Golden State finished with 19 offensive rebounds, compared with 18 combined in Games 1 and 2.
“He’s relentless,” Curry said. “He knows how to be effective when he’s out there. He’s shown it plenty of times before, and it was huge. … Offensive rebounds are usually, once you get the possession, there’s going to be somebody open because everybody is kind of scattered. It’s just a great look for us to create good offense and then a second chance, everybody is kind of in rhythm and you’re stepping in. It’s like what the game kind of calls for, and you knock them down.”
Curry made three buckets off Looney passes, including one 3-pointer at the end of the first half to tip the momentum heavily in Golden State’s favor.
Curry finished the night with 36 points on 12-of-25 shooting, including six 3-pointers. He added six rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block and committed just one turnover.
On the other end, the Warriors held the Kings to 38% shooting from the field, their worst field goal percentage in a game all season. Sacramento also finished with 97 points, tied for their third-lowest total in a game this season. It is also tied for the third-fewest points allowed in a game all season for the Warriors.
And that was without their two best defenders.
Heading in, the Warriors understood the importance of Game 3 and the uphill battle they were facing. They still don’t believe they’ve done anything, with Kerr saying after Thursday’s win, “Nothing’s happened yet. … Until somebody wins a road game, everybody is just holding serve.”
But they finally looked like themselves for the first time this series and avoided falling into a catastrophic 0-3 hole. Their season is very much still alive.
Said Curry: “The biggest thing is we’ve been in a situation where momentum doesn’t necessarily carry over from game to game unless you execute at the same level, so it’s just one game. But it was a big game for sure.”