Dubs' huge third quarter swings Game 4, maybe series vs. Kings

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SAN FRANCISCO – After winning Game 3 of their first-round playoff series with a burst of desperation, the Warriors on Sunday confronted Game 4 seeking confirmation.

Were they, with their high-mileage core, still capable of reminding the young and talented Sacramento Kings that championship pedigree still is relevant?

It is – when aided by the gods of good fortune.

Golden State’s 126-125 victory over the Kings in Game 4 before an electrified sellout crowd (18,064) at Chase Center was more a matter of survival than prosperity and as much a testament to luck as skill.

With the game at stake, the Warriors double-teamed Kings star De’Aaron Fox, who passed to Harrison Barnes at the 3-point arc. Barnes’ wide-open 3-ball missed with 1.6 seconds remaining, the Warriors exhaled knowing they had done just enough to tie this Western Conference series at two games apiece.

“You've got to make that,” Draymond Green said of Barnes’ miss. “We know Fox can make a shot; he won Clutch Player of the Year. What I'm not going to do is give him an iso with anyone and just watching him work and living with that.”

Sacramento was in position to win at the buzzer because the Warriors nearly squandered their magnificent work in the third quarter, which not only swung the game their way but also might given them an edge in the series.

Trailing 69-65 at the half and staring at the possibility of being down 3-1 in the series, the Warriors' pedigree emerged from dirt after a few minutes of halftime soul-searching. They were grittier and grimier, doing whatever was necessary to keep their heels away from elimination.

The defense intensified and the rebounding emerged, with coach Steve Kerr citing a single element.

“Attitude,” the coach said. “Make sure we're much more active, especially from the perimeter. We were leaking out a little bit. I didn't think our guard rebounding was great in the first half and second half. Our guards got back in there and did a much better job . . .. Our guys got back into the play, and I thought we were a little more physical.”

After allowing Sacramento to shoot 51.7 percent, including 45 percent from deep, in the first half, Golden State’s defense sent those numbers spiraling to 36.8 and 28.6 in the third quarter.

After being outrebounded 24-17 in the first half, the Warriors took a 15-7 victory in that battle in the third quarter.

“We put bodies on bodies,” Green said. “We understood that they had their physicality, they controlled that department in the first half. If you want to win these games, you have to control the physicality department. They controlled it pretty handily the first two games. They walked away with those two games. We controlled it in Game 3, and we won pretty handily.

“They controlled it in the first half. They were ahead at halftime. We controlled it in the second half.”

Fox was 9 of 16 in the first half, 1 of 6 in the third quarter, when the defensive assignment went to Green.

“They got some bounces to go their way,” Kevon Looney said of the first half. “But having Draymond out there, he completely changes our defense and what we’re able to do on that end. Having him out there just changes the energy.”

The Warriors shot 54.2 percent from the field in the third quarter, outscoring Sacramento 16-4 in the paint and 8-4 in second-chance points. That led to a 37-23 advantage in the quarter, allowing them to take a 102-92 lead into the fourth.

Though they gave it back, even falling behind for 14 seconds, the Warriors took the lead for good when a Stephen Curry layup made it 108-107 with 8:49 remaining.

RELATED: Steph: TO blunder in Dubs-Kings Game 4 is learning lesson

The Warriors were outscored 102-89 in the first, second and fourth quarters. The third quarter, as has been the case many times in the past, was their salvation.

“It was just the focus of executing on both ends, and understanding the pace of this series is crazy,” Curry said. “But when you get stops, you can run. When you keep them off the free throw line, they can't set their defense and we can kind of play to our strengths a little bit better.

“And the way that we finished the quarter was huge, which has been another part of our struggles, in terms of a six-point lead turning into two, or a two-point lead turning into a four-point lead for them. To close out the way we did the last possession, allowed us to have a little bit of breathing room even though they made that run to start the fourth.”

The Warriors are back in the series. They must win a road game to keep it a series. Water deepens as the games keep coming, and it will be appreciably deeper when the teams meet for Game 5 Wednesday in Sacramento.

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