NBA play-in

Curry-led Warriors, Kings clash in high-stakes NBA play-in


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Curry-led Warriors, Kings clash in high-stakes NBA play-in

NIGHT NIGHT. Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) reacts after scoring against the Boston Celtics during the overtime period at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

The Golden State Warriors and the Sacramento Kings go through a needle hole to keep their NBA title hopes alive as the Western Conference play-in kicks offs

The Golden State Warriors sent the Sacramento Kings home last season by rallying to win a seven-game first-round playoff series with the finale set in California’s capital city.

The Warriors once again will try to make it a disappointing ending for host Sacramento on Tuesday night (Wednesday, April 17, Manila time) when they face the Kings in a loser-goes-home Western Conference play-in contest.

The winner of the game between the No. 10 seed Warriors (46-36) and No. 9 Kings (46-36) will advance to play either the No. 8 Los Angeles Lakers or No. 7 New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night.

The winner on Friday advances to play the top-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the playoffs.

Golden State’s Draymond Green is confident his squad will still be playing next week.

“We just got to go win,” Green said. “When this team’s back is against the wall, I like how this group shows up.”

Green said he expects to be roundly booed again when he steps on the court in Sacramento. His playoff antics from last season have not been forgotten as part of an electric series in which the Kings won the first two games before Golden State recovered to win four of the final five.

Though Stephen Curry’s 50-point performance in Game 7 allowed the Warriors to advance, Green’s stomping on the midsection of the Kings’ Domantas Sabonis in the fourth quarter of Game 2 lives on as the series-defining visual.

“It kind of has brewed into (a rivalry),” said Green, “but for us, it’s another game we have to go win. We’ve got to get it done.”

Sabonis is having a monster season with 77 double-doubles, while teaming up with star point guard De’Aaron Fox to get the Kings in the playoffs for the second straight season after 16 consecutive fruitless campaigns.

The history of losing made last season’s postseason ouster feel even harsher for Sacramento.

“It’s exciting,” Kings guard Davion Mitchell said of facing Golden State. “We get to get a little payback for last year. We know they’re going to come here with energy. It’s a home game. We know it’s going to be loud. It’s going to be physical. I think we are ready for it.”

Sacramento floundered down the stretch with five setbacks in six games prior to hammering the visiting Portland Trail Blazers 121-82 in Sunday’s regular-season finale.

The Kings were eyeing a possible top-six playoff spot when they sat 13 games above .500 with just 11 games left. But a 4-7 finish landed Sacramento in the high-stakes 9 vs. 10 game.

“We welcome anybody that’s in front of us,” Sacramento coach Mike Brown said. “We are just excited about an opportunity to play. And again, situations like this, we as a group right now, haven’t been through. And so to go play one game right now, that’s how I look at it and swing for the fences. Try to get a win.”

The Warriors had a hot finish with 10 wins in 12 games, including Sunday’s 123-116 home win over the Utah Jazz.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr’s squad didn’t permanently get over .500 until Feb. 15. After being five games under .500 on Jan. 27, the Warriors went 27-12 the rest of the regular season.

“We have a really good connection on this team, good chemistry, guys pulling for each other. So I’ve got a good feeling about what’s ahead,” Kerr said. “I think we still have a chance to do something special.

“Now, obviously, it’s (the) NCAA Tournament. We’ve got to get out of the first weekend here, win the first two and get to the first round, but we have a shot, so we’re excited about that.”

The teams split four regular-season meetings this season — going 1-1 in both Sacramento and San Francisco. –

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