SACRAMENTO — A Golden State Warriors performance can be evaluated by the boos you hear from rival supporters. They typically start off with a backbreaking, impossible 3-pointer from Steph Curry or Klay Thompson. Or a thunderous dunk from Jonathan Kuminga or Andrew Wiggins after a devastating back-door cut.
However, in Friday’s resounding 120-100 Game 7 victory to eliminate the Sacramento Kings and advance to the Western Conference semifinals against the Los Angeles Lakers, Kevon Looney’s collection of offensive rebound after offensive rebound to frustrate and wear down Sacramento to the point of brutality was the cause of the loudest, most vexing grunts, aches, and complaints from Kings fans.
“That’s what makes it fun,” Looney said following the victory. “Doing all the hard work, shoving, getting elbowed, and other things like that, just to be able to get an assist for your team and see them make a shot and alter the momentum. I savor those times because it’s such a wonderful feeling and I know they contribute to our victory.
Curry’s 50-point effort, the first in an NBA Game 7, was a masterpiece, but it was a Michelangelo fresco in a room full of clumsy kindergarten finger drawings. Thompson made 4 of 19 shots. Andrew Wiggins made 5 of 16 shots. They had a team free throw percentage of 63 percent. Other than Curry, Warriors shot 8 of 28 from beyond the arc.
Following a back-and-forth first half, the Warriors prevailed in a tedious third quarter that was characterized by ogreish physicality, appalling free throw shooting, and nine missed shots in the paint from Golden State alone.
The Warriors shot 5 for 16 from the floor and 3 for 9 from the free throw line in the first six minutes of the third quarter. However, the Warriors found themselves on a 15-6 run as a result of nine offensive rebounds during that time, including five by Looney. The Kings continued to teach hitting first at several points in the series, most notably in Game 6. They suffered a series of actual and symbolic body blows in the third quarter of Game 7 from which they were unable to recover.
Even though we didn’t make any free throws, Thompson claimed that the defense was discouraged by our tough play and our commitment to the line.
Anyone who has followed the Warriors during this unbelievable run over the past ten years is aware of the irony. Their read-and-react, quick-hitting offense has been unmatched in both its beauty and efficacy. They possess shooting, passing, quickness, and the uncanny chemistry of Curry, Thompson, Looney, and Draymond Green, yet in Game 7, they were found causing trouble in the trenches.
That’s because the Kings had figured out a way to out-Warrior the Warriors thanks to a coaching staff that was well familiar with the method.
Golden State desires to play quickly. Sacramento wishes to play more quickly. The Warriors desire 3-pointers. The Kings wish to make more 3-pointers. The offensive effectiveness of Steve Kerr’s method is enhanced. The greatest offensive in NBA history was Mike Brown’s. When the series came to an end, Looney declared that the Sacramento offense was “what it was hyped up to be,” and Kerr echoed his remarks.
Sacramento, following Game 7, had “a really fun team, a beautiful offense,” according to Kerr. They did a fantastic job of setting up a system that made the most of their talent. This year, it was lovely to watch them perform.
The Kings pushed the ball down the Warriors’ throats for large portions of many games in this series, driving them into a race that all too frequently ended in an excess of Golden State mistakes. They therefore made a conscious effort to ensure that their running was intelligent and intentional in Game 7. As a result, there were fewer high-risk, home run throws, more pick-and-roll-based, planned offense, and a lot of Steph Curry magic in the half-court.
Green stated following the game, “You’d be a fool not to persist with it when you see something that works. Steph slows down the ball as he receives it in an effort to get to anything. Every time we did it, we succeeded in achieving our goals.
The Warriors and Kings played at a speed of 105 possessions per game throughout the first six games of the series, by far the fastest in any 2023 postseason encounter. Golden State reduced the tempo in Game 7 to 97.5, which was almost as purposeful as the raucous Knicks-Heat Game 1 that was played right before them.
The Warriors held a Kings club that had averaging 116 points per game in the series to just 100 points, 42 of which came in the second half. It is a stark illustration of Golden State’s versatility, which has been a key component of their incredible success over the past ten years but is occasionally disregarded.
The Warriors, the league’s team with the fastest tempo, proved in Game 7 that they can triumph by slowing things down. That might help the Lakers, who were only slightly slower than Golden State in pace but have LeBron James, one of the best half-court offensive minds in basketball history. In either case, the Warriors will have their hands full.
The Warriors will have their hands full regardless of the scenario, but Sunday served as a stark reminder that despite how gorgeous their basketball is, they won’t back down from an ugly fight if it means winning.
The way we play, in particular, makes the offense flashy. Curry remarked, “We kind of have that high-octane offense. But for us, our defense has typically served as our calling card. Even if shots aren’t falling, we can start to feel the momentum shifting in our favor because you can kind of derail the momentum by stringing together two or three stops.