What we learned as short-handed Kings lose to Warriors originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
SACRAMENTO — It wasn’t quite a playoff preview Friday night when the Kings hosted their Pacific Division rival Golden State Warriors at Golden 1 Center.
De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis, Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk were ruled out before the game. Keegan Murray and Harrison Barnes were the only usual starters to suit up against the defending champion Warriors, a team still fighting to secure a top-six Western Conference playoff spot.
The short-handed Kings made the Warriors sweat a bit but lost 119-97 in front of a record crowd of 18,253 fans wearing purple and blue.
It was a sloppy game from the jump. The Warriors committed 24 turnovers. The Kings shot 33.9 percent from the field in the first half and trailed by as many as 17 points before a 13-1 second-quarter run with Warriors star Steph Curry on the bench made things interesting.
It was a five-point game at halftime, but that’s all she wrote. The Warriors took care of business in the final two quarters. Will there be a rematch next weekend at Golden 1 Center? We’ll find out by Sunday night.
Here’s what we learned from the Kings’ loss to the Warriors:
Keegan Murray’s night
With four key offensive pieces out, all attention turned toward the 22-year-old rookie from Iowa.
Murray stumbled out of the gate, missing his first five field-goal attempts, but found his stroke in the second quarter and finished with nine points, four rebounds and three assists in 34 minutes.
Murray was matched up against Warriors star guard Klay Thompson for most of the first half. Thompson went 4 for 10 from the field and made just one 3-pointer in the opening two quarters with Murray often in his face.
The rookie found himself on the highlight reel several times. He showed off his handles with an impressive behind-the-back sequence in the third quarter and shined on defense by stuffing Warriors second-year guard Moses Moody at the rim.
Still, though, it wasn’t a memorable night for Murray. If anything, it’s a reminder how much the rookie benefits by playing the two-man game with Sabonis and alongside an elite ball-handler like Fox.
Big competition for the bigs
The big man duties were left to Chimezie Metu, Alex Len and Richaun Holmes on Friday night with triple-double machine Domantas Sabonis watching from the bench.
Metu put up the best box score of the bunch, logging a season-high 15 points to go along with eight rebounds in 17 minutes.
Len, playing double-digit minutes for the sixth straight game, racked up five points and six rebounds, with five of those coming on the offensive glass. Len had two ugly turnovers but continued to show off a surprising burst down the floor and was a magnet to the basketball.
Even Holmes, who hadn’t played more than six minutes since early February, saw 15 minutes of action and notched 11 points.
Len, an afterthought for much of the season, has seen most of the action the past week behind Sabonis and is a favorite to join the playoff rotation due to his size, but Metu gave the coaching staff much to consider heading into the first round of the postseason with a strong performance against Golden State.
The Memphis Grizzlies defeated the shorthanded Milwaukee Bucks 137-114 on Friday night, meaning the Kings officially are the No. 3 playoff seed in the Western Conference.
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Sacramento could have snuck into the No. 2 seed this weekend by winning its final two games combined with two Memphis losses. However, the Bucks rested their five starters and the Grizzlies took care of business to make Brown’s decision to rest his top guys look like a smart one.
As of Friday night, five teams still can claim the No. 6 seed and face the Kings in the first round: the Warriors, Clippers, Pelicans, Lakers and Timberwolves.
The Kings have one more game on their schedule Sunday against the Denver Nuggets, who clinched the No. 1 seed in the West on Thursday. That will be another opportunity for Fox, Sabonis and company to rest up for what Kings fans are hoping will be a long, memorable postseason run.