Kendra AndrewsESPN5 minute read
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — In 28 playoffs together, there aren’t many firsts left for this Golden State Warriors group. Heading into the 2023 playoffs, they had never trailed 0-2 in a series. In fact, the Warriors hadn’t dropped their first two games of a playoff series since the 2007 Western Conference Semifinals.
That all changed Monday night, with a 114-106 victory for the Sacramento Kings that left Golden State trailing 0-2 in the series in the first round.
Monday’s game came in waves for the Warriors — missed open layups, being outmatched physically, struggling to care for the ball — issues they’ve faced all season. It culminated in the ejection of Draymond Green with 7:03 left in the fourth quarter after stomping on the chest of Domantas Sabonis of Sacramento.
After Stephen Curry grabbed a defensive rebound and spun around to drive up the floor, Sabonis slipped and fell into the paint. He grabbed Green’s leg, and after Green first got rid of Sabonis’ grip, he took a hard step directly to Sabonis’ chest.
Sabonis remained on the ground for a few minutes while the officials reviewed the play. He was called for a technical foul for grabbing Green’s leg, and Green received a flag 2 foul which led to an automatic ejection.
“When I fell I was protecting myself, then the incident happened,” Sabonis said. “There’s no place for that in our game today.”
Sabonis had X-rays to his sternum which came back negative, and he appears to have avoided injury, a source told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. He will undergo additional tests on Tuesday as a precaution.
Green, explaining his version of the incident, said: “My leg got caught – the second time in two nights – and the ref is just watching. I have to put my foot down somewhere, and I’m not the most flexible nobody, so it doesn’t stretch that far…. I can’t walk that far with someone pulling my leg.
The first time Green’s leg happened, he said, was in Game 1, by Kings guard Malik Monk.
“I guess grabbing the ankle is OK,” Green said Monday.
“What are you going to do if someone grabs your foot while you’re running at full speed?” Warriors goaltender Klay Thompson asked rhetorically. “It’s not cool. I’m not saying what Draymond did was right, but you can’t just catch someone’s foot taking off in a full sprint.”
Kings coach Mike Brown said he was “curious” to find out what would happen when the league reviews the incident. The question now is whether the play warrants a suspension or an additional penalty.
During the game review, Sacramento fans shouted derogatory chants at Green, who cheered them on by waving, holding a hand to his ear calling for louder teasing and standing on a chair with a towel wrapped around his shoulders.
This isn’t the first playoff offense for Green, who was suspended for one game in the 2016 NBA Finals after racking up too many flagrant fouls in the playoffs that season.
As he sat on the bench with “Draymond sucks” chants raining down Monday night, Green gave a smile and a peace sign. And as he returned to the locker room, he emphatically supported all his teammates.
The match was not lost when Green was ejected. The Warriors have fed on moments like this before – allowing Green’s fire to fuel them.
Instead, he did just that for the Kings.
“It brought us together,” Sacramento point guard De’Aaron Fox said. “We huddled together and said to ourselves, ‘We have to win this game’, especially because everyone thought (Green) would be sent off. When that usually happens, this team comes together and runs. We have could deny that.”
But there were too many other errors that prevented the Warriors from closing the gap between themselves and the Kings, even with the game in hand almost all the time.
The Warriors’ 20 turnovers surely didn’t help. The same goes for their fouling. Both of those areas have been glaring problems for Golden State in the first two games of this series. The Kings attempted 29 free throws Monday night after taking 32 foul shots in Game 1.
Curry finished with 28 points on 9 of 21 shooting and was just 3 of 13 of 3. He was contested on 16 of his 21 field goal attempts and nine of his 13 3s. He was 0 for 5 with either Fox or Monk as the main defender.
Andrew Wiggins added 22 points on 9-of-19 shooting, and Thompson scored 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting, including five 3s. But that wasn’t enough to overcome areas that hurt the Warriors.
“I think the confidence that we have, as crazy as it sounds, we keep making the same mistakes but keep competing at a high level and showing what we’re capable of,” Curry said. “We know we have it, and we know we are capable. It’s just, can we execute? That question will determine our fate in this series.”
But maybe it’s also time to pay the Kings their due. Whenever there was an opportunity for panic to set in, they seemed poised, calm and in control, despite their lack of playoff experience.
“They played better than us down the stretch,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “They were the abusers, and I thought they benefited from being the abusers.”
Despite being down 0-2, the Warriors seem unwavering. Green spoke with a smile on his face while speaking to reporters after the game.
“It’s exciting, isn’t it? he said of being in uncharted territory in a playoff. “It’s a new challenge. After the game I thought: this is something we haven’t seen yet. And we’ve conquered all the others, so why not go and conquer this one? It will be lots of fun.”‘
Thompson was the picture of “cold” as he answered questions. The locker room, although quiet, had no negative aura.
“I don’t feel any pressure,” Thompson said. “I see an opportunity to protect the home pitch and make adjustments. We’ve been through it all. We’re not used to pressing the panic button.”
The Warriors are not at the point where they are too worried. But that could very well change depending on how they react to San Francisco.
“It’s the old adage: The streak doesn’t start until someone wins on the other team’s court,” Curry said. “If we want to get back to it, we have to start with a focused effort in Game 3 at home.”
Information from The Associated Press has been included in this report.