Ethan Sherwood Strauss ESPN Staff Writer
OAKLAND, Calif. — The Golden State Warriors ran the Sacramento Kings out of Oracle Arena 109-86 in a game that saw a collective attack quickly envelope the unfortunate foe.
For two quarters, the Warriors were listless, as they sometimes are against lottery-type opponents. Stephen Curry was deferential and scuffling, a trend that started in Golden State’s previous visit to Sacramento, a Feb. 4 loss in which Kevin Durant suffered through an insipid performance.
The Kings were up 50-47 at the half Wednesday that ended with, among a few other mistakes, a Draymond Green ejection. Green was ousted after he vigorously challenged being called for a foul on DeMarcus Cousins. The Kings’ center drew the foul while making a circus shot, leaning into Green’s arm as he flipped a floater up blind. Green unleashed a fury in response, throwing his hands at the air twice, before being thrown out.
Considering their ho-hum play up to that point, it appeared the Warriors might be in some trouble. “We were in tough shape without Draymond,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Against anybody without Draymond is tough, but against Cousins, where Draymond is really a key guy for us. He’s going to spend a lot of time on Cousins.”
Instead, with Green gone, the Warriors suddenly awoke, replete with his marauding spirit. Golden State blitzed and bullied the Kings in a 42-15 third-quarter onslaught that bordered on cruel. “I thought our guys responded beautifully,” Kerr said. “We wanted to play faster. I thought the first half, the tempo was in their favor, and the third quarter we just played with great energy and got out in transition and our defense led to a lot of easy baskets.”
Golden State went on a 40-12 run over the last 10 minutes, 40 seconds of a third quarter that saw Klay Thompson hit more shots (5-of-5 for 17 points) than the Kings (4-of-21). The run included quite a few impressive plays. There was a Durant block of an Anthony Tolliver jumper that led to a Durant dunk on the other end.
After that, Thompson added a slick one-handed pass for an easy Durant bucket. Following that, excellent ball movement set up a Thompson corner 3-pointer. Then, a Patrick McCaw steal created a Thompson layup. It should be noted that McCaw was plus-28 over his nine minutes of play in the quarter. While he wasn’t the main reason for that ridiculous stat, his relentless defensive pressure certainly helped the cause. “McCaw was amazing,” Kerr said after the game. “He had a ton of deflections, he was all over the place and he just seemed to be in the middle of every play defensively. Even though his offensive numbers don’t show it, he really had a huge impact on that game.”
Regarding his defensive approach to this game, McCaw told ESPN, “Not really trying to fill a Draymond void, but knowing the energy he brings and he plays with, I just tried to emulate in my own way. I went out there and did that.”
The run wasn’t over with the McCaw steal and layup. Instead, it was about to reach its peak. A Thompson steal led to a Curry-style bomb from roughly 30 feet away off the catch of a Durant pass. Then, the coup de grace, as a Durant strip became a one-handed lob for a JaVale McGee crusher.
Durant recalled of the stretch, “We just upped our intensity. We made them feel us. I think we pressured them a lot. We might have gotten four, five steals in a row. I don’t know. We got some steals, was able to get out and get some transition baskets, but we sped them up in that third quarter. When we speed teams up, get off the glass and run, we’re tough to stop in transition.”
In this game, “tough to stop” might have been an understatement. The Warriors scored 18 points in transition in the third quarter, whereas the Kings managed 15 points in total.
When the dust finally settled, Thompson had finished the game with 35 points on 18 shots, Durant had an efficient 10-of-15 for 21-point performance, and the bench had plenty of garbage-time practice. Often, when things are going wrong, Green is the answer. On Wednesday, the answer came in the form of channeling his relentless will to dominate and destroy.
Now, after so much energy poured into one frenzied quarter, Golden State enters an All-Star break that just happened to start a little earlier for their power forward. There is no rest for the wicked, though, as the Warriors’ four All-Stars and coaching staff will be in New Orleans for the festivities.
It’s the kind of burden other organizations would love to have. Not all has gone smoothly going into the All-Star break, but in the aggregate, the Kevin Durant experiment has resulted in a four-game, first-place lead and a record pace in point differential. Essentially, the Warriors sped past the league, and nobody’s catching up if they maintain their form.