In a highly competitive masterpiece that was ridden with runs from both teams, the Kings came up short in San Francisco by a score of 125-126 as the Warriors managed to tie the series up at two games a piece.
In a shift from the first three games, the winner of the differentials in offensive rebounds/second chance points and turnovers did not win the game. Sacramento had 12 offensive board’s to their opponent’s 8 for 18 second points compared to Golden State’s 11. They also committed 1 less turnover for 3 more points off. But as one can tell, things were close and the Warriors just hit their shots, going 50.0% from the field and 41.2% from three even as Sac had 12 more field goal attempts. It helped the cause of the home team—who also made mistakes late—that the Kings forced a few shots down the stretch, illustrating their inexperience, which might have been the biggest takeaway.
Outside of a third quarter where he was slowed, De’Aaron Fox was brilliant, scoring 38 points with 6 rebounds and 9 assists. Breaking from his rookie playoff woes, Keegan Murray scored 23 on 5 of 7 from three. Domantas Sabonis scored 14 with 7 rebounds and 8 assists, and Davion Mitchell provided 12 points alongside his defense. Malik Monk had a nice showing off the bench, scoring 16 with 5 boards and 6 assists, but did have some errors late.
Golden State’s four top scorers all finished over 50% from the field. Steph Curry dropped 32 points, Klay Thompson scored 26, and Jordan Poole had 22 as starter initially. With them, Wiggins scored 18, but had 8 rebounds as well. In his return from a one-game suspension, which came off the bench at first, Draymond Green had a double-double with 12—albeit, inefficient—points and 10 rebounds to go along with 7 assists. And Kevon Looney had 8 points, 14 rebounds, and 6 assists.
Late in the game there were a good amount of mistakes—mostly due to over aggressive shot selection and 5 fourth quarter turnovers—but the Warriors proved their still susceptible to sloppy play as well, committing 4 of their 11 turnovers in the final period. Plus, aside from Draymond’s 3 of 14 from the field, all of the Warriors best players showed out for big games.
A loss is a loss, but when learning on the fly in an intense postseason series, this no loss to hang one’s head about. That is, so long as the Kings take care of business back at home. Still, overall, both teams made sure to put on an absolute thriller of a game four, and the momentum of the series does feel somewhat up in the air.
Game three summary (takeaways below)
The Kings were seeing good aggression from Sabonis and Murray early as both teams were playing with an upbeat pace. Sacramento was benefitting from sharp defense to take advantage of some sloppy play by Golden State, who committed 3 early turnovers. The intensity of the game was high, too, as Fox and Draymond quickly got a double-technical as they spoke quite demonstratively between plays. The Warriors were hitting their three’s and avoided further turnovers, but the Kings began to find a second wind (10 fast break points) in the period when Curry went to the bench for a moment, finishing the first on an 11-3 run to go up 32-31.
The start of the second quarter was even better for the Kings, carving out an 8-0 run early as Fox led a determined group. But out of a timeout, the Warriors responded with a 9-0 run that tied the game. Uncannily so, after a Sac timeout, they took the lead with a 15-6 run as the pace was where they like it. Golden State got to the line a few times as the period began to wind down, creating an opportunity for a 14-6 run that cut it to 1 point. Sacramento’s rookie (15 first half points) hit a three, though, to answer Curry’s, giving his team a 69-65 lead at the half.
With Draymond starting the third period and guarding Fox, Golden State’s scorers continued scoring, taking the lead with an 11-5 run out of the gate in the half. Keeping with the character of the game, Sacramento responded with a run to tie it up. The teams batted, but Golden State pushed ahead with another run to go up by 6 points as Curry went out for a rest. In that time, Sacramento could not mount a response. Jordan Poole got it going, continuing his nice scoring performance as Klay Thomspon capped a 37-point quarter with a three as they lead 102-92.
To start the fourth, Monk hit Domas for a layup, Davion hit a lay-in in transition, and Murray sunk another three, forcing a timeout. Their run starting the period became 15-6, but Curry immediately scored 4 straight points to go back ahead. Horns locked, the teams went back and forth, trading scores and mistakes. Fox began to turn it on for Sacramento after a 5-point third. The splash brothers looked intent on expanding their lead, but the Kings remained in it through some frenzied play. Draymond’s defense helped create some cushion on the other end.
With less than a minute remaining, Curry called time while up 5, but the team did not have a timeout left, giving Sac a technical plus possession. Harrison Barnes missed a three-the second instance of poor shot selection for the Kings—but on a second chance opportunity, Fox hit a three after missing a few looks down the stretch. Curry could not get a floater to fall, giving Sacramento the ball, down 1, and with tent ticks remaining. Fox was met well by Curry and Draymond, forcing a pass to Barnes, who missed the looks from three.
Late mistakes: shot selection, turnovers, defensive lapses
Both teams made mistakes in the final five or six minutes of the game, but Sacramento’s proved far more numerous and detrimental. Yet, it’s hard to ignore that the mistakes from Golden State did ultimately provide the Kings a pretty nice opportunity to win the game.
But for Mike Brown’s team, it was about shot selection on one end and lapses on the other, creating a contradictory sense of over-aggressiveness mixed with insufficient urgency.
Recall that Sac was down 10 to start the fourth, and through the first half of that quarter, they chipped away at the space Golden State created in the third, making it a 1-point game after two straight successful trips to the free throw line for Malik Monk. But from there the mistakes were seemingly lurking behind every corner.
Past the midway point, after Sabonis bailed out some bad transition defense with a running block from behind, Monk initiated what would be a sloppy finish to the game, turning it over by dribbling at three defenders and trying to get a pass through, which would have met an open Barnes, but would have had to get by the length of Draymond Green. There was no fast break for the Warriors, but in the half court, Jordan Poole went right at Monk, getting by him for a finish as his teammates created great spacing (something they’ve managed to do over the last two contests).
It wasn’t all that bad in the moment, and Fox’s 19-foot response underlined that as it cut the game back to 1 point. The Kings then came up with a stop after their opponent got a second chance, but going back the other way, Draymond poked it away from Sabonis to force a turnover in a spot where Sac could’ve taken the lead. Off the steal, the Warriors displayed far more urgency as Thompson was given plenty of space to push the ball to the rim where he was sent to the line for two.
Fox cut it to 1 again and forced a timeout from Kerr, leaving them with just one more. Out of that timeout, Fox made his biggest mistake.
After the game Mike Brown was hesitant to commend Fox’s defensive effort. While it was better overall than game three, he hesitated and concluded that his all-NBA worthy point guard was just “okay defensively.” This is why.
On a high screen and roll, Fox essentially decided to go around the horn in order to contest Steph Curry’s three-point attempt. In doing so—in doing exactly the opposite of what he was supposed to—he gave the best shooter in history way too much space, and thus the three went down.
Fox managed to earn a whistle and hit two free throws before the Kings—with Davion Mitchell back in and put on Curry—forced a stop on a missed layup by Poole with some nice low man help from Barnes. Taking the ball back up the floor though, Fox passed it to the sideline in a total miscommunication with Sabonis. With it being around the three and a half minute mark, it was more than Fox’s time.
But just like the gap provided to Curry, the Kings then left a similar kind of gap for the other greatest shooter in history. Malik Monk took a bad—perhaps over-aggressive?—route to the ball, giving Klay Thompson too much room to hit from the same wing Curry had just made his from.
That was one of the immediate things coach Brown touched upon in his postgame presser.
“We gapped — and this is where our playoff inexperience comes into play because you can’t rest out there or you can’t think you can play something a certain way and the champions aren’t going to make you pay the price,” he began when highlighting the late-game mistakes. “But one time we gapped versus Steph and he hit a three, which was huge. Another time, we gapped versus Klay and he hit a three, which is huge.
“You might think, ‘It’s one possession,'” Brown continued. “Well those six points right there — not doing what we’re supposed to do — again, that shows our playoff inexperience.”
Then the game got really sloppy, but for both sides.
Fox tried to answer near the rim, but was met by a block from Andrew Wiggins. Mitchell recovered the offensive board, but in trying to save the ball, it became another turnover. Contributing to the symphony of errors, Jordan Poole made an ambitious pass that was picked off by Malik Monk and led to a layup with nobody around for Mitchell, making it a 3-point deficit.
Kevon Looney committed a moving screen for a turnover, and in trying to challenge it—which proved unsuccessful—Kerr lost his final timeout. Fox, however, could not get a jumper from his spot to fall, but Barnes helped get a stop on the other end.
Grabbing the board and taking it down the floor, Sabonis found Barnes who missed a layup in the face of some nice defense from Draymond, and trying to get a put back to go, Domas was blocked by Draymond in a critical defense sequence for Golden State, which lead to a score on the other end and made it a 5-point lead with just under 90 seconds left.
The Warriors got a stop, but Curry could not sink the dagger. But having gotten the rebound, Malik Monk was too audacious with his attack, pushing ahead into a one-on-three situation and missing a difficult attempt looking for a whistle (something that will be addressed below).
Looking all but lost at this point for the Kings’ chances, Curry called a nonexistent timeout, leading to a technical free throw and possession for Sacramento. Monk hit the attempt from the line and then Barnes—in the matter of mere moments—made another poor decision regarding shot selection, jacking up a side step three for a miss with plenty left on the shot clock.
Fortunately for Sac, they retained possession and on the inbounds, Fox hit a three from the top as Draymond, his defender, had to reserve some on-ball pressure against the hardest player to stay in front of, making it a 1-point game again with about 28 seconds remaining.
Despite getting by Fox, Curry missed a floater, and upon rebounding the ball, the Kings called timeout. WIth a chance to win, Curry and Draymond doubled Fox, forcing the ball out of his hands and into those of Barnes who missed a really good look from the wing.
In all, in spite of those mistakes—from the defensive lapses that just can’t happen against those kinds of shooters to to the turnovers to the poor sense of presence to find the right shot—the Kings still had a chance to win this game due to Golden State’s mistakes.
With the volume of errors in crunch time and the closeness of the final score, it’s hard not to get into a game of “what if.” One less three for the Warriors, one less turnover, or perhaps one extra pass for a better shot could have led to a different outcome.
Talk about a lesson in the fragility of playoff basketball. The inexperience was glaring, but if Kings fans want, they can come away from this understanding that a wealth of first-hand knowledge was gained, even as the Warriors successfully took two at home to tie the series.
Too much complaining?
Over-aggressiveness was mentioned above as it pertained to the late-game mistakes on the offensive end, but here was the primary example of that.
It was evident that another qualm for coach Brown was that he felt like the awareness to spread the ball around and find good shots was far too foggy. In fact, he said that his guys have got to stop dribbling into multiple defenders thinking they can get a call from the officials, admitting that he wouldn’t bail out those attempts either if he had a whistle between his lips.
“We want to play faster and we’re going to keep playing fast, but all of our guys are driving into two, sometimes three, guys in transition and begging for a call, and we can’t continue to do that,” Brown griped. “And it’s a great learning experience for our guys to be able to see because we wasted a ton of possessions in transition driving and just throwing up some crazy stuff.
“Space the floor, stop and spray the ball, and if we miss a wide open three, that is way better than driving and throwing up some crazy stuff because, at the end of the day — this is what I keep telling our guys — you’re going to have to knock these guys out. You can’t rely on the referee — because if I’m a referee, the shots that we’re taking at the rim and transition, I ain’t calling neither because you’re begging for a foul. You can’t drive to the rim and beg for a foul every single possession and then they run it back at us because they have a numbers advantage. We got to play the right way when we’re playing fast and we didn’t do a good job of that, especially in the second half. We had a lot of guys shoot some tough, tough, tough shots begging for fouls at the rim and transition.”
It was a complaint he harkened back to a few times during his press conference, and considering the Kings got off 12 more field goal attempts than their opponent and lost by a single point, the insistence on trying to extract a foul call was bordering on insanity.
Monk in a lot of ways had a great game, but the late game mistakes and this issue specifically—of dribbling haphazardly into traffic—marred his night. There were five or six instances of that whistle hunting throughout the night for Monk in this game, including his attempt with about 50 seconds left.
Other guys did as well, including Fox and Barnes a few times, and it was the sign of a team that does not entirely grasp the importance of every possession in the playoffs, let alone against such a proven opponent in the defending champions.
On the notion of the first two takeaways, a question had to be asked: Did fatigue play a part in the Kings’ mistakes?
Obviously, inexperience played a huge role, but some things seem potentially indicative of some sign of wearing down, namely the gaps guarding Steph and Klay as well as the desperate search for foul calls.
Regarding the gaps against historic three-point shooters, Mike Brown posited that, even if in passing, being tired could have played a role right alongside inexperience.
“Not one time in this whole series have we said we were going to gap against these guys (Curry and Thompson) and we did it,” Brown said. “And so that probably has to do with your fatigue, and not only that, you’re in an environment that you haven’t been in before — because it was two guys (Fox and Monk) that were in the playoffs for the first time — and you have to have a certain will to continue to try to play the right way, especially if you want to beat the champions on their home floor.”
Combining fatigue with a lack of experience creates a road to nowhere. The lack of experience is already like driving on a new road, but adding fatigue into the mix is like doing so in the dark with dead headlights.
Fortunately for his team, with the setting shifting back up to Sac, there will be another two full days between games four and five, but tired legs and groggy minds are clearly hard to eliminate since the Kings also had two days between games three and four.
The issue of energy and sustainability has been noted a lot regarding this series, flipping from team to team. However, with Curry having to play 42 minutes in this game, with Thompson playing 39 minutes in a game where he brought an added defensive focus, and with Wiggins playing 37 in his fourth game back, the fatigue question does not attach itself to Sacramento alone.
Golden State’s adjustments
For the Warriors, the major difference to start this game was not necessarily that Draymond Green was making his return, but rather that he was doing so by coming off the bench. Initially, at least.
Throughout the game, the Warriors kept offering different combinations—both staggering Green and Looney’s minutes while also playing them together as the game wore on—in order to try and counteract certain things that were working for Sacramento.
After playing much better in the third contest compared to the first two up in Sac, Draymond Green and Steve Kerr thought it best to bring Green off the bench.
Both noted how the four-guard lineup created better spacing, which in turn limited the potential for hazardous turnovers, which have hurt this team a lot this season, including in the first two games of the series where they committed 15 and 20 respectively.
“The spacing was an issue in the first two games in Sacramento and the spacing was part of the reason for the turnovers,” Kerr explained. “So you take Draymond out and you put Jordan (Poole) in and now you got four players around the three-point line, one big — it just creates passing lanes, driving lanes, and makes the game easier on our offensive players.”
Veteran Bay Area sportswriter Scott Ostler asked, as a follow up, if lacking Green in game three made that “more evident,” and Kerr avoided saying yes, instead saying that when things work in the playoffs, “you stick with it.”
And to be fair to Draymond—which, understandably, Kings fans may be reluctant to do—it was supposedly his suggestion to come off the bench, which articulated a premonition the head coach was having. Plus, Kerr and his staff went with Green to start the third, putting the former Defensive Player of the Year on Fox so as to offer Sac’s best scorer a different defensive look. (Fox scored 5 third quarter points.)
As to what the Warriors will do in their starting lineup in game 5 remains to be seen at this point. It wouldn’t be surprising either way Kerr chooses to go since Golden State has found both a way to open the floor up for themselves with one big on the floor as well as identifying other ways to enhance the defensive efficacy of the two-big lineups by leaning on another form of versatility.
In other words, the Warriors have some options. Can the Kings match this?
Keegan Murray’s bounce-back game
Other than playing much better from start to finish in this one as opposed to game three and other than putting themselves in a position to win the game, a positive takeaway was Keegan Murray, who managed to go 5 of 7 from beyond the arc, scoring 23 total points in all.
At the end of game three, when the final result was essentially certain, Murray hit a three. Meaningless as it may have seemed to some, it was critical because actually seeing a three-ball go down can do wonders for a young player’s rhythm, especially one who can impact a game with his outside shooting.
And that it did. Really, confidence was not the issue since the rookie out of Iowa has continuously powered through adversity and has a bunch of support behind him, so it was just a matter of finding the groove.
Part of what helped is Murray was more aggressive battling off the pressure Golden State’s defense has had on the dribble handoff game, which has limited Murray and Huerter’s three-point production. In this game, Murray got a few to fall.
“I think it’s just being aggressive,” the first-year forward noted postgame when asked about the success of some of those DHO looks. “I feel like they didn’t change anything that they normally did, I was just more aggressive coming off of it and it either led to a mid-range or a three or a dump off to Domas.”
The pace was an emphasis for this game as it is in every game for this team, and that includes half court pace. Being aggressive coming out of those handoffs is a terrific embodiment of the kind of pace Mike Brown wants in the half court.
The kid never faltered from putting shots up, and he’s had a commendable series on the glass. Even with his struggles—which were painfully apparent in the first three—there was no doubt he’d snap out of it.
With him coming out of his struggles, it finally helped his team shoot well from deep, which can be imperative in this series. Golden State’s first half, for instance, maintained striking distance on the scoreboard because of their three’s.
Shooting struggles for Barnes, Huerter
While Murray showed out, two of Sacramento’s top three outside shooters have yet to get it going. Harrison Barnes has gone 4 of 14 in the series (28.6%) while Kevin Huerter has hit just 3 of 20 from downtown (15.0%).
In game four, they combined for 1 of 7 with Huerter going just 0 of 1 in his 21 minutes on the floor.
Keegan Murray found a way to beat the dribble handoff coverage the Warriors have applied all series, but Huerter was forced to look for shots in other places, and he went 1 of 3 from two-point range to post just 2 points on the night.
Overall, Barnes went 3 of 11.
Barnes has done some other things to stay on the floor, but Huerter has played himself off the floor for the most part. The red-head shooter has played just 14 fourth quarter minutes this series, the third least of the nine rotational players.
Game five in Sacramento will be Wednesday the 26th. Tipoff will be just after 7pm Pacific time, and coverage will be available on TNT and NBC Sports California.
Tied at 2-2, expect another exceptional game as the Kings look to regain control of the series.
[…] [ April 24, 2023 ] Inexperience Rears Its Ugly Head as Series Goes Back to Sac Tied 2-2: Game 4 … […]
Crazy game, pretty disappointing the result…though can’t say it wasn’t exciting!
Three main things I wasn’t happy about was
1) Didn’t like the last play design by the coaches. Should’ve had better 2nd and 3rd options if Fox was doubled and taken away. Someone other than HB should’ve gotten a chance, like Domas or Keeg…not the King who was the coldest that game. And still not sure why Barnes didn’t cut to the rim for a closer shot once he was pretty much behind Green. But oh well, gotta live with it…on to the next game.
2) Kings really blew it in that 3rd again, getting outscored by 14. They almost completed wasted a really good 1st half. After the bad third period, they were caught playing uphill the whole 4th and struggled to keep the score tied or close. I suppose they didn’t have much business even playing for the game winning shot, except for the bad errors by GS and last couple missed shots by Curry.
3) Domas really has to step up, and other Kings do too other than Monk to help support Fox. But I wonder if Sabonis is hindered by the Green stomp, he hasn’t look right since, mainly production wise but can’t keep letting Looney beat him on the boards. He’s been outrebounded 34-23 the past two games, looking like he is the guy who leads the NBA in cleaning the glass. Just has me wondering if he’s more than a bit hurt. Hopefully him and De’Aaron will be alright and have strong performances Wednesday, if Swipa is even able to take the court that is. Let’s go Sacto…gotta light the beam for the fans once again!