Your Sacramento Kings played host to the Golden State Warriors on Monday night, possibly for the final time.
In front of a raucous crowd of 14,243, the home team played inspired ball for three quarters and held off a furious fourth-quarter comeback by the Warriors’ B team to win 129-119.
The Kings were led by Samuel Dalembert (27 points, 16 rebounds) and newcomer Marcus Thornton (42 points, 4 steals), who both went for career highs in points against the porous (sievelike? nonexistent?) Warriors D.
The Warriors drew first blood on a Dorrell Wright corner three. The Kings answered with a spectacular 19-0 run. In my mind, I heard "Sweet Georgia Brown" playing as the Kings made their NorCal rivals look Washington General-esque with a dizzying array of sweet takes, no-look passes, fake no-look passes, steals and all-around domination.
Following a timeout and mass substitution, the Warriors were able to slow the onslaught with their second-teamers on the floor and escape the first quarter down "just" 15, 35-20. It felt like it could have been more.
The few times the Warriors were able to put together a semblance of a run, the Kings had an answer. Marcus Thornton stopped a four-point mini-Warriors run with a fast break slam-dunk three-point play off a MADE basket. The Warriors couldn’t get out of their own way.
The Warriors were able to keep it relatively close in the second quarter when Monte Ellis and Stephen Curry decided to join the game. Golden State trailed 47-23 when Stephen Curry hit a 20-foot jumper, giving the highest-scoring backcourt in the NBA its first two points of the evening, almost 15 minutes into the game. Ellis, Curry and Wright combined for 28 points in the quarter, and the visitors were able to cut the home team’s lead to 12, 71-59, at the half.
At this point, Thornton already had 26 points, and Dalembert already had a double double (19 and 10).
The deluge continued in the third quarter as Demarcus Cousins (15 points, 9 boards, 4 assists) entered the fray in earnest after a relatively quiet first half. "Big Cuz" had 10 points and 2 assists in the quarter, including a ridiculous three-quarter-court outlet bounce pass to Francisco Garcia that extended the lead to 17 and sent the crowd into a tizzy.
By the end of the third, the Kings had extended the lead to 23 points, 107-84, and Warriors Coach Keith Smart had seen enough. The Warriors’ starting five of Curry (19 points), Ellis (15 points), Wright (18 points), David Lee (8 points) and Andris Biedrins (0 points) were done for the evening. They would watch the rest of the game from the bench.
They had the best seats in the house to watch their backups (led by the Warriors’ new Thornton, Al, who had 23 points) play an inspired fourth quarter, cutting the 23-point lead to just 9 with 2:14 to play.
The Kings were able to avoid a repeat of their epic collapse the last time the Warriors were in town, however. After Acie Law missed an open three-pointer that could have cut the lead to six with 90 seconds remaining, Garcia sealed the deal with a three of his own. Game, set, match.
"It’s nice to get outscored 35-22 in the fourth and get a win" Kings Head Coach Paul Westphal opened at the postgame presser. "We did a lot of good things tonight."
They certainly did.
It bears noting that they did all this without star guard Tyreke Evans. Kings fans should be ecstatic at the prospect of Thornton (23 years old) teaming with Cousins (20) and Evans (21) in the years to come.
Or tormented by the prospect of it happening in Anaheim. I suppose it depends on your outlook.