SACRAMENTO, Calif. — At the end of every Kings practice, their first-year coach Mike Brown typically gathers his entire group of players, coaches, and other staff between the two full fields as he shares a farewell message.
The decibel level drops. The chaos of their last hoops lesson disappears. The attention of everyone around him increases. It is not the communication itself that is remarkable, but the attention paid by all those people who have spent the last six months following him.
Heads are up. The ears are open. The mouths are closed.
When Brown wrapped up his final session at the team facility on Sunday, his Kings having taken a 1-0 lead against those familiar Warriors foes the night before and looking for more, he told them what was to come next. a way even he couldn’t have fully understood at the time.
“Every step you take from here is going to be tough,” Brown said.
It’s one thing to say it, though. Words can only have a limited impact. You have to live it, feel it.
That’s the general belief in the NBA, anyway. And so he was supposed to go for these Kings, this inexperienced, offensive club that ultimately broke the Sacramento playoffs and that so many people mistakenly thought would be happy to be here, first-round cannon fodder for quadruple champions.
The Kings are a stress test for the Warriors, and the actors are failing
Yet by the time their 114-106 win over the Warriors was over on Monday night – when their defense gave all those future Hall of Fame tweaks, the Kings star duo of De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis showed up, and even Draymond Green’s WWE-esque scene (and ejection) after stomping Sabonis’ chest midway through the fourth quarter couldn’t break their focus – Brown had shown once again that this thing they were building could be real.
Two playoff wins are barely enough to give a reputation verdict here, but the huge stakes at stake for this particular opponent mean this is a lot bigger than a typical first-round series. These are the Dynasty Warriors, the team Brown has spent his last six seasons working with and who could face a ‘Last Dance’ type summer if they fail to win four of those next five games. .
It’s Steph, Klay and Draymond, that trio of all-time talent who knows how hard it will be to convince owner Joe Lacob to keep the band together and pay all those massive luxury tax bills if they don’t. can’t even get past the Kings. But for two games now, it’s Beam Team that has beaten them at almost every turn.
They hit more big shots, play with more poise and cohesion, exhibiting superior balance and composure. As someone who has chronicled the Warriors’ remarkable rise up close and whose long Kings cover story offers a unique insight into their ineptitude, it’s a surreal sentence to write. And as Brown later admitted, there’s also an element of surprise for him.
“I appreciate it, because … like I said, we had a good regular season, but we haven’t been on a stage like this,” Brown said. “You think it’s going to go a certain way, because they’ve been playing at a certain level for most of the year – especially when they were on the road and in tough situations. But you don’t know until you experience it. And you know, there’s going to be a lot of firsts for us, a lot of testing for us. Every game that we win in a situation like this, it’s going to get harder because they are… the defending champions. They have an irreplaceable championship DNA, with so many guys and especially their staff who have won at a high level. And so every loss, in my opinion, is going to make them even more desperate. … It’s going to get harder for us with every game.
That may be true, but it’s the warriors who find themselves in foreign and frustrating territory right now. If you haven’t heard, it’s the first time Curry has lost 0-2 in a series in his 14-year career.
That statement alone is enough to make you wonder where the collective spirit of the Warriors will be for Game 3 at Chase Center on Thursday. Add to that the fact that they’ve already been through basketball hell this season – the Green-Jordan Poole incident, the uncertain future of general manager Bob Myers, the absence of Andrew Wiggins, the saga Gary Payton II, Mysterious Road Troubles, and More – and it’s safe to say that their collective future is in serious jeopardy now.
What we do know now, though: The Kings, after two games, pass that playoff test in a way few saw coming. Even Brown.
A suspension for the trampling of Draymond?
First, the video…
As I wrote in our game report, I would be surprised if Green was suspended for his Sabonis chest stomping. But it should be noted that NBA commissioner Adam Silver was there, adding a personal element to the politicking that is always part of this kind of situation. Additionally, the disciplinary decision will be made by former Kings front office executive, Pistons legend, close friend of Green and current NBA executive Joe Dumars (whose official title is Executive Vice President , head of basketball operations).
Minutes after the match ended, Green headed to the post-match podium to share his side of the story. But before he could even get there, he heard it from a Kings fan leaving the arena through a hallway that approaches the visitors’ locker room.
Green, who had played his role as the familiar villain goading the crowd as the play was reviewed, did not react to the heckling this time. And when he spoke about his article at his press conference, he focused on Sabonis’ ankle grab which he says left him with no choice but to do what he did. .
For the Kings’ part, Sabonis underwent chest and lung X-rays which came back negative. He added that there would be more tests on Tuesday but it certainly looks like he will be fine. The 26-year-old big man shared his diplomatic views in his locker long after the game was over.
“I love competition,” Sabonis began. “I love the playoffs, you know, the challenge of playing the Warriors. You know, I got hit in the jaw earlier in the game there, so when I fell, you know, I was kind of protecting. And then obviously the incident happened. And I feel like there’s no – there’s no place for that in our game today .
Sabonis was then asked about the ankle seizure.
“It’s the playoffs,” he said. “A lot is happening. At that moment, I am pushed. I fall to the ground. I’m just trying to protect myself, you know? And then what happened happened.
It’s all clear about the Kings’ preferred handling of all things Draymond: They’re doing their best not to add fuel to his fire. From discussions with Kings’ sources after the game, it’s clear there’s a concerted effort not to get caught up in the game of trash talk that so often does Green and, in turn, inspires his teammates (although Malik Monk was a bit involved in Game 2). It’s safe to assume that Brown shared his insider’s perspective on how best to handle this unique challenge.
When it comes to basketball, Sabonis was much better this time around. Let’s move on to the story of the band.
Game 1: Twelve points (5 of 17 shooting), 16 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals and a minus-9 mark while dealing with drop coverage for the Warriors.
Game 2: Twenty-four points (8 of 12 shots), 9 rebounds, 4 assists and a plus-1.
Even after the incident with Green, Sabonis hit a layup with 2:53 left that put the Kings up 104-101. With 1:17 to go, he found Kings point guard Davion Mitchell in the left corner for a 3 that put them up 112-103.
“They did a great job of taking things away that I normally do well (in Game 1), and I just had to watch a movie, make better decisions and be available for my team,” Sabonis said. . “(Be) more decisive, faster – they blow things up (defensively). It’s the playoffs, so every game things change. They took things away in Game 1, and luckily we got the win and I was able to adapt in Game 2.”
Location, location, location
As far as regular season trends go, one of these teams will break character in Game 3. The Kings were tied for second in the league in road wins, with their mark of 25-16. only beaten by Milwaukee 26-15. The Warriors, meanwhile, had the league’s third-best home mark at 33-8 (Memphis was 35-6 and Denver was 34-7).
“Now we have to go to San Fran and keep playing through the series,” Sabonis said. “Hostile environment. We’re going to their house now. I can’t wait for that, you know. We’re going to go through what they went through with our fans. So as a player and as a competitor, that’s all that you want.
• Ever since Warriors coach Steve Kerr, the Warriors had made it clear they wanted better shot selection in Game 2. They shot 50 3s in Game 1 (making it just 16) and went wondered why they seemed to have forgotten that the Kings struggled with rim protection throughout the season.
“It’s not like they have Brook Lopez there,” a Warriors source said of the Kings.
They shot 40 3s in Game 2, but only made 13 and are now shooting 32.2% for the series from long range. Curry, who finished with 28 points, 6 assists and 5 turnovers in Game 2, was just 3 of 13 over 3s.
• Monk easily wins the battle of the Sixth Man against Jordan Poole of the Warriors. After scoring 32 points and finishing with a plus-10 mark in Game 1, he had 18 points and a plus-5 mark in Game 2. Poole, who rolled his left ankle in Game 1 but finished with 17 points, was questionable heading into Game 2. Finished with just 4 points in 15 minutes while working clearly, missing 6 of 7 shots.
• Fox’s fourth quarter magic continues. After having 15 points (5 of 9 shooting) and 3 assists in the final period of Game 1, he had 11 points (5 of 9 shooting), 3 assists and 3 rebounds in the fourth quarter of Game 2. This first Mr. Clutch prize is surely in the mail now.
(Photo by Malik Monk: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)