NBA Playoffs: How the Warriors Round Up to Championship Form Should Be Paying Attention to the League

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The familiar sound of silence was a welcome one for the Champions, who are feeling rejuvenated after being healthy for the first time in a long time.

The magic and arrogance of the championship was accompanied by true focus and determination as they got back on track, facing another test from the Sacramento Kings.

And for the first time in a long time, they passed the test, doing so in the style that made them champions last June.

The Golden State Warriors marched into the Golden 1 Center with determination and a crowd of happy fans who made the trek down the highway to take a 3-2 lead with a 123-116 Game 5 of their competitive first-round series.

There were no images of Draymond Green yelling and barking at Kings fans during a timeout, or any level of distraction that would detract from the significance of this game. They have come close in the first two games, but have been undone by the kind of simple mistakes that usually plague far less experienced clubs at the start of the season.

On the one hand, it was uncharacteristic of a team that wants to be taken seriously.

On the other hand, they came closer than the 11-30 rotten record illustrated.

But the more important number for them was 28, the number of consecutive streaks these Warriors have gone into someone else’s building and played at least one game, an NBA record.

It was done in a style that makes all the other remaining playoff contenders fear that the Warriors have it figured out and will continue to do so well into June.

Golden State
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry scores a basket during the second half of Game 5 of their first-round NBA playoff series against the Sacramento Kings on April 26, 2023, in Sacramento, California. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas)

“We know we’re going to go with our guys, the best two-way lineup,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “What we give up in distance, we gain in offensive rebounding and defense. And that’s our lineup.

Klay Thompson (25 points) to keep the Warriors close hit one of those ridiculous corner jumpers to silence the crowd.

Kevon Looney is gobbling up every rebound, joining Wilt Chamberlain and Nate Thurmond as the only Warriors with two 20-rebound games in a playoff series. He was aided by Gary Payton II, who once again played above his height for crucial offensive rebounds and defensive pressure that makes you more than unpleasant.

Stephen Curry is doing Stephen-like things, even on a lackluster night by his standards.

And Green is taking a step back in the rebounding machine to the days when he was a big scorer, hitting a crunch time in Game 4 with one leg that he may have only loosened during practice.

This prompted his teammates to nickname him “Draymond Nowitzki,” in homage to the Hall of Fame shot.

His 21 points marked the first time he had broken the 20-point barrier since Christmas 2019, the Warriors’ so-called “gap year” before the pandemic, when Curry was nursing a wrist injury and Thompson was nursing for the first time. his debilitating leg injuries.

Green came off the bench to go 8-of-10 from 3-point range while adding 7 assists, 4 rebounds and 4 steals. Even though he was a nuisance for countless reasons in Game 2, he made it all the way for the Kings for the second straight game and could barely hear the raucous crowd saying something to get under his skin.

“I’m not trying to chase some villain title. Being a villain is not fun, it’s not pleasant,” Green said. “But I’ve never smoked either. You have to take the good with the bad. It was great to play in Game 4 when I got the cheers. Super special.

“On the other hand, if you want to, if you’re going to enjoy it and appreciate it, but you have to appreciate the other side as well. You know, we pride ourselves on not being a leader.”

They couldn’t be leading, not this season, not with their own problems and other circumstances beyond their control.

It’s taken a bit off its championship luster, and it was somewhat dented in the first two games of this series when the youthful Kings ran all over them, making the champions look old and worn out.

De’Aaron Fox led the way, and despite a question mark over a fractured index finger on his shooting hand, he took 25 shots and hit his first three 3-pointers. Thompson waved his left hand to mimic Fox’s shooting form, almost in admiration. He got into unfortunate trouble trying to defend some of those shape-shifting drives, and it wasn’t until late that Fox’s injury seemed to take hold.

He had 24 points with 9 assists and 7 rebounds, but NBA Mr. Clutch was more of a sitter in the fourth quarter as reserve Malik Monk took over as the lead guard and continued to attack the Warriors’ defense as they blew a 12-point lead. .

It was a case where the Warriors have been down this season, but even in the first quarter, when old bad habits resurfaced as the Kings made eight 3-pointers, they were still within three points.

They probably knew they had won the game.

“That’s our team with a healthy group, we can run two-way lineups,” Kerr said. “I thought Gary was fantastic tonight, made some big plays, gave us huge minutes. So having Gary back, what [Andrew Wiggins] back and with a healthy list. You can see we are a different team now.

Maybe it would feel more sustainable if it was Curry’s masterpiece, but it was far from it. A few sloppy plays could have been costly, but just like in Game 4, when he got his head back in the game to pull in a critical layup in the final seconds, Curry put the finishing touches on a 31-point night with the old game. -modern 3-point play with 22.4 seconds left.

That put them up eight, crushing the Kings and giving their teammates enough validation that, even though it’s too late to do so, they’re finding a way with each other.

“Seasons can be so long and there are a lot of ups and downs, but that makes it all worth it,” Thompson said. “When you walk off that floor victorious, especially with guys you’ve been with for over a decade. That’s so rare in professional sports, and Draymond and Steph don’t take it [it] taken for granted. Not me, not Loon either.

The streak isn’t actually over, but it might as well be. The Kings are great and talented, but the Warriors are getting stronger every day.

As battered and bruised as they are, they sense opportunity and, shockingly, feel just as hungry as their thirstiest rivals.

Thirsty for silence.

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