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Kings take the season series against playoff-bound Warriors

Golden State Warrior fans expected their team to prevail when the Sacramento Kings came to Oakland for their final match up of the 2012-13 season.

Two nights earlier, the Warriors beat the dangerous Lakers. They have also won the season series against the division-leading Clippers, and are anchored by a current All-Star (David Lee), a should-be All-Star (Stephen Curry). After all, Curry is the seventh leading scorer in the NBA, the highest among point guards. His three-point and free throw percentages are both third, both highest among point guards. And he averages almost seven assists per game.

Nevertheless, there is something about Kings – Warriors games that transcends logic. The Kings won both of this season’s home games. They lost the most recent game at the last moment by a Klay Thompson three-pointer. Games are always close and often go to overtime.

Wednesday night’s game started oddly. The Kings went on a run, racking up at 12-2 lead. The Warriors went on a 13-1 run, and soon had enjoyed a nine-point lead barely into the second quarter. Immediately, the Kings responded with a  9-0 run and tied the game.

Then, three minutes into the second half, the Kings took the lead and never again relinquished it. Still, it seemed premature when Warrior fans started streaming out with two minutes left in the game. Through the first three quarters, the Kings shot an embarrassing 38.5 percent from the foul line so, when it became a free-throw shooting game, victory was not assured. Although the Kings’ lead decreased to three points, they converted seven of eight free throws in the final quarter, and left Oracle Arena with a 105-98 road win.

Into the Belly of the Beast

What does it take to enter an arena displaying the colors of the enemy? After all, it’s not like in warfare, where they execute spies who conceal their identity. Still, you’re asking for some annoyed glares at best, intimidation, threats and possible violence at worst. Yet, there they were — Kings faithful, proudly broadcasting their allegiance to Sacramento.

Keith Bragas lives in the Bay Area, but became a Kings fan during the 2002-2003 season and has remained loyal. He says it’s tough, especially with his Warrior friends trying to convert him. He talks trash with Kirk, who says he wouldn’t really miss the Kings because there’s a bigger buzz when the Lakers or Clippers come to town. He did admit that “it would be great” if the Kings and Warriors ever squared off in the playoffs, and bet Keith on that night’s game. Hopefully, Keith collected.

Ryan Moore, Kishan Patel, Michael Kinyanjui, and Chris Solorzano live in Sacramento but have been childhood friends since growing up in Woodland. This was their first away game. They came to support Vivek [Ranadive], a “whale” in the ongoing effort to buy the Kings and keep them in Sacramento. The irony that Ranadive is currently part owner of the Warriors and would have to sell his share if the deal goes through was irrelevant to their coming to Oakland. This is their spring break and they are simply going to as many games as possible.

Reza treated Ali Gilani to a limo ride from Sacramento, dinner, and the game. It was a package he had bid on at a charity auction and they enjoyed showing their purple colors at Oracle.

Rika resides in Richmond, but spent 10 years in Sacramento when Mitch Richmond anchored the Kings. He’s not silent when it comes to his basketball team. “We ain’t going to Seattle! Here We Stay! SacTown Never Back Down!” The only people who give him a bad time when he wears his Kings colors are his cousins and his sister. Rika confided that, when he passes another Kings fan, they give each other a knowing look of “Alright! I got your back!”

Tanner Williams is from Los Angeles, but became a Kings fan because his father was a customer of Vlade Divac. His whole family has stayed loyal to the Kings ever since. Williams’ girlfriend, Cheyenne Schloffman, stands by her man. Though growing up in Colorado before moving to Los Angeles, she identifies with the Kings and proudly wears purple. They observed that Warriors fans are “not as mean as they are in LA” when the couple supports the Kings at Laker games.

Anthony and Angelo Maloof (related to the fine Lebanese restaurant on Fulton Avenue, rather than to the Kings ownership) wore full Kings regalia, not to mention painting their faces while carrying a Kings sign. They traveled to Oakland out of an intense loyalty, and disregarded the stares and occasional comments.

Young Grant and Reed bought their own tickets to come in from Folsom and watch the game.

Some of the Kings Kontingent gathered around Grant Napear and Jerry Reynolds during the post-game wrap up. Their chants of “Sac-Ra-Men-To!” and “Here We Stay!” (“here” inconveniently being Oakland, notwithstanding) filled the arena.

The Warrior View

The Kings-Warriors relationship is not a typical regional rivalry. Probably because both teams have never been in the playoffs at the same time, let alone actually played each other, the rivalry is friendler than, say, that of the Raiders and Forty-Niners.

Indeed, many Kings fans would switch to the Warriors if (God forbid) the Kings moved to Seattle, and fans of both teams often root for the other when their hometown favorites are not in the playoffs.

From the Warrior perspective, many fans would miss the Kings if they moved to Seattle.

Reginald Naicker would really miss the rivalry because the games are always so close and exciting.

Jennalin is a loyal Warriors fan, but feels “it would be a big loss for us” if the Kings moved. She would miss not just the rivalry but the Kings as a team, and pointed out that a lot of Warrior fans supported the Kings, as a fellow Northern California team, when they were perennial playoff contenders.

Paul Brallier would “absolutely” miss the Kings. “We like sports in the Bay Area, period. Anywhere in the Northern California area.”

Tony Avila was dismissive, explaining that “it’s not a rivalry until they beat us a few times,” ignoring the fact that the Kings have now beaten the Warriors three out of four times this year. He would also look forward to the Warriors picking up ex-Kings fans. His sister Arlene and brother-in-law, Jody Morris, disagree. Both want the Kings to stay, and Morris would miss having Sacramento fans in attendance when the Kings come to town.

Rosanna Hotchkiss is a Warrior fan but lives in Napa and sometimes comes to games in Sacramento. Consequently, she is “pulling for” Sacramento to stay and laments that “there is a shortage of Northern California teams as it is.”

Bryan Bresnyi and Jane Shtalenkova live in Half Moon Bay. Bryan commented, “I definitely would miss having them. Every Sacramento game we’ve had this season has been an awesome game.” Jane added, “The rivalry keeps us on our toes. You never know what’s going to happen with the Kings!”

Lamar and Tanisha Aiken, brother and sister, feel the rivalry more intensely. That’s because Lamar has been a Kings fan ever since he got into basketball. “The first team I ever watched was Sacramento. With Bibby and Webber and Christie and everyone, I just fell in love with the way they played.” They argue “all the time” and Tanisha would miss it if they Kings did move.

Other Notes:

(1) Curry should have been an All-Star point guard, but it was Isaiah Thomas who played like one. Thomas had 31 points and seven assists, sinking seven of 12 three-point attempts.

(2) It was mostly bench players (Patrick Patterson, Chuck Hayes, and Toney Douglas) who closed out the game. DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson watched the entire final quarter from the bench.

(3) This was the 370th meeting between the Kings and Warriors. Each team has now won 185 games.

(4) The Kings (26 – 46) are now guaranteed their most victories since the 2007-08 season.

(5) Curry got his 601st career three-pointer and needs only one more to tie Tim Hardaway for second most in franchise history.

(6) This was the 26th consecutive sellout (19,596) for the Warriors. One Warrior salesperson, who said that even standing room was sold out for the Kings game, explained that sales were especially brisk due to Bobblehead Night (David Lee), the Northern California rivalry, and the general success of this year’s Warriors.

(7) Sacramento fans boo the refs when replays show bad or close calls going against their team. Warrior fans seem to boo the refs even when replays confirm a call against their own team.

(8) Oracle Arena is beautiful, and the electronic displays are clearer, brighter, and more informative than at Sleep Train Arena. On the other hand, they charge reporters for dinner, while the media eats a complimentary Bella Bru catered meal in Sacramento. On the other other hand, only popcorn is served during halftime in Sacramento, while the media in Oakland got hot dogs and fruit.
 

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