Warriors, Kings tip off season's second half
Two teams that could find themselves as playoff opponents for the first time later this spring meet for the final time in the regular season Thursday night when the Sacramento Kings take on the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif.
The Warriors (41-16) finished the NBA's "first half" with the best record in the Western Conference and, if the playoffs had started today, would have been paired with the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Clippers (32-27) in the first round.
The Kings (30-27) entered the break tied with the Clippers in the loss column, but one game behind due to two fewer wins.
Sacramento has not made the playoffs since 2006 and, in fact, has never reached the postseason in the same season as its Northern California rival since moving west from Kansas City in 1985.
The Warriors had an eventful All-Star break, with Kevin Durant earning All-Star Game Most Valuable Player honors, Stephen Curry finishing second in the 3-point shootout during All-Star Weekend and Andre Iguodala being elected as first vice president of the National Basketball Players Association.
Getting seven days off has allowed the Warriors to calm down from an explosive pre-break finale at Portland, where Steve Kerr was ejected for disputing a flagrant-foul call on Draymond Green.
Green enters the final 25 games of the season with 13 technical fouls. Three more and he would receive a one-game suspension.
Green knows he is under a microscope.
"I've been officiated a certain way for years," he claimed to reporters in the wake of his flagrant foul in Portland. "It's nothing new to me."
With all hands on deck, the Warriors get an opportunity on Thursday to sweep the season series from the Kings after having recorded three nail-biting wins earlier this season.
Golden State scratched out 117-116 and 130-125 wins in November and December, respectively, before edging the Kings 127-123 in January.
The Warriors swept season series from the Kings in 2014, 2015 and 2016 before Sacramento won three of the eight meetings over the last two seasons. Two of those three wins came last season at Golden State.
The Kings will feature a different look for this season's fourth head-to-head matchup. They beat the trade deadline with deals that imported former Warrior Harrison Barnes, Alec Burks and Caleb Swanigan, and later added Corey Brewer via a pair of 10-day contracts.
"We definitely got bigger," Kings star point guard De'Aaron Fox observed to reporters last week. "Other than that, we brought in some more shooting, guys that can score, put the ball in the basket. I think we got a little bit better."
Barnes will be facing the Warriors for the 10th time since leaving as a free agent in 2016 following the club's signing of Durant. Barnes has scored 20 or more points on four of those occasions, including going for 22 as a member of the Dallas Mavericks in a January meeting with Golden State.
Barnes was a member of the 2015 Warriors team that won the NBA championship in coach Steve Kerr's first season. He also was a starter for the 2016 Golden State club that lost to Cleveland in the NBA Finals.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 20, 2019