Three reasons why Kings can beat Warriors in playoff series


After waiting 17 years between playoff appearances, the No. 3 seed Kings are treated to a first-round matchup against the defending champion No. 6 seed Warriors.

In the week leading up to Saturday’s Game 1 at Golden 1 Center, not many outside Sacramento are giving the Kings much of a chance to win the series. Playoff inexperience is cited as the main reason, which might be fair when it's stacked up against the dynasty in the Bay.

“If I’m another [playoff] team I’m targeting us too,” Kings coach Mike Brown said to reporters April 2. “And we’re the only ones who can change that narrative.”

But then again, not many thought this up-and-coming Sacramento team would send two players to the All-Star Game, win 48 games and finish third in the West.

One Pacific Division rival will be sending the other home for the summer after this best-of-seven series. Here are three reasons why the Kings could beat the Warriors:

Historic offense

The Kings need to lean into their greatest strength in this series.

Sacramento’s offense set a new all-time NBA record this season with a 119.4 offensive rating, courtesy of its star duo of guard De’Aaron Fox and center Domantas Sabonis leading the charge.

A big part of this offense thriving so quickly in Brown’s first season was consistency. The five-man lineup of Fox, Kevin Huerter, Harrison Barnes, Keegan Murray and Sabonis played 900 minutes together this season, 162 more minutes than any other five-man group in the NBA.

The offense runs through Sabonis, who often carries the ball down the floor to set up his teammates with elite passing and dribble-handoff skills. Fox can create his own shot in a split second. Huerter and Murray are talented outside shooters, and Barnes can get to the rack with the best of them.

If opponents somehow stop that, sixth man Malik Monk is a microwave off the bench that can score from anywhere on the floor.

It's very hard to knock the Kings out of any game. Not unlike the Warriors, Sacramento can erase a 20-point deficit in a matter of minutes. It's a big reason why the Kings' three-game losing streak to end the season (one in which they benched most starters) was their first such skid since November.

Of course, the Kings' biggest weakness all season was its inconsistent defense. Brown, the Warriors' defensive guru for six seasons as an assistant under coach Steve Kerr, hasn't been able to instill much of a defensive presence in Sacramento.

A few games in this series might come down to which team has the last possession. The Kings certainly hope it's them.

Road Warriors

The Warriors’ 2022 championship rings didn’t shine so brightly away from Chase Center.

Golden State went 11-30 on the road this season, the fourth-fewest road victories in the NBA. It looked even worse for most of the year, too. Four of those wins occurred in the Warriors’ final five road games.

It’s easy to see where they went wrong.

Golden State led the NBA in points per game on the road (118.2) but logged the third-worst defensive rating (118.3), besting only the lowly Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs. The Warriors also led the NBA in turnover percentage (16.2) and coughed the ball up 24 more times than any other team on the road this season.

That's more than enough evidence to make Kerr worry. In Golden State's 119-97 victory over Sacramento on Friday, a game in which Fox, Sabonis, Huerter and Monk rested, the Warriors committed 24 turnovers. Many were self-inflicted.

It's simple for Sacramento: Protect home court against one of the league's worst road teams.

Clutch Time Fox

While basketball pundits debate which star deserves MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, one postseason award has been all but official since January.

Without a doubt, Fox will win the first annual NBA Clutch Player of the Year award.

Fox was special in clutch time -- defined by games with a five-point scoring margin in the final five minutes. He scored 194 total points, 35 more than DeMar DeRozan in second place. Fox shot 52.9 percent from the field, which ranked first among the 21 players with at least 70 clutch field-goal attempts, and 86 percent from the free-throw line.

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Sabonis fuels the offense for the first three-and-a-half quarters, then hands the offense's keys to Fox to take over.

One criticism that comes along with the Kings' playoff inexperience is not having those reps under the bright lights. They counter that with the league's best player with the game on the line.

If a first-round playoff game is coming down to the wire, the Kings have all the trust in the world in Clutch Time Fox.

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