3 reasons Warriors will beat Kings in 2023 NBA Playoffs

A potentially epic first-round battle between the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings is finally here. As Saturday night’s opener at Golden 1 Center dawns, here are three reasons why the defending-champion Warriors will beat the Kings in a highly anticipated playoff battle for Northern California bragging rights.

3. The Warriors’ massive experience edge

The last time Harrison Barnes experienced playoff basketball? Seven years ago, when he was bricking open jumper after open jumper for the Warriors during their historic 3-1 collapse to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals. Deep Kings reserve Matthew Dellavedova was on that Cleveland team, too, playing a much more minor role than the year before with Kyrie Irving healthy, drawing the ire of Dub Nation every time he stepped on the floor regardless.

Barnes and Dellavedova have combined for 116 playoff appearances in their careers. Sacramento’s playoff roster as a whole? Just 183 games, an especially low number compared to the Warriors’ gaudy total of 817 playoff games between them.

Experience matters in the postseason, and Golden States has more of it collectively than any other team in basketball. Even guys like Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole are battle-tested after last season’s title run. Don’t forget that Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, the latter of whom’s role in the first round remains to be seen, were dusted off this time last year for some matchup-specific court time, either.

Dubs beat writer @armstrongwinter dives deep with predictions for the Warriors’ battle against the Kings, highlighting Klay Thompson, Domantas Sabonis and a final pick for one of the first-round’s most exciting series.https://t.co/pPEBoF5UdE

— Warriors Nation (@WarriorNationCP) April 14, 2023

De’Aaron Fox has never tasted playoff basketball. Domantas Sabonis has 13 postseason games under his belt, the most recent one coming in 2019. Among Sacramento regulars, Kevin Huerter will likely be the player most comfortable with the intensity, physicality and precision of the playoffs after making it in back-to-back seasons with the Atlanta Hawks.

Does that inspire confidence the Kings will be ready for the moment? The Warriors definitely will be, and not just because they’re coming off a fourth championship in eight seasons. Golden State is finally at full-strength, entering the postseason playing its best basketball of 2022-23.

It takes time, not to mention the pain of an early exit or two, for the vast majority of teams to experience playoff success. Sacramento just doesn’t have any, especially compared to one of the most significant dynasties in NBA history.

2. Wildly disparate defensive peaks

The Kings boast several indicators of a solid, reliable defense.

They rank top-10 in both defensive rebounding and opponent’s free throw rate, and sport one of the league’s stingiest transition defenses, third in transition frequency and fifth in points added, per Cleaning the Glass—notably impressive numbers because Sacramento loves to play in the open floor offensively.

That data alone points to the Kings responding to Mike Brown’s influence, and the eye test drives it home further. They play with consistent intensity and edge defensively, mostly nailing the little things that allow a defense to be better than the sum of its parts.

But effort and execution only loom so large. Personnel matters much more, particularly when the level of competition rises in the playoffs, and Sacramento’s 116.0 defensive rating finished 24th during the regular season, a league-worst among teams still standing. The Kings’ lack of scheme versatility with Sabonis on the floor—absent impactful nail defenders and rim-protectors behind him—could be this series’ biggest strategic X-factor.

The Kings will have nowhere to hide Domantas Sabonis against Steph Curry and the Warriors’ unique offense.

(via @armstrongwinter)https://t.co/cUylVr8pzA

— Warriors Nation (@WarriorNationCP) April 11, 2023

For all the justified hand-wringing about the Warriors’ defense this season, they were still 14th overall with a 113.4 defensive rating. Golden State regularly let go of the rope on the road, unable to shrug off made shots and mistakes to string together defensive stops. The main justification behind the Dubs’ laughably disparate defensive splits at home and on the road, though, was opponent three-point shooting—historically more subject to random whims than a defense’s impact.

You don’t even need to dig that deep to know for sure Golden State’s defensive peak exists in a different world than Sacramento’s.

Green accounts for that reality almost by himself. Kevon Looney might have lost a half step, but still has the versatility to bang with Sabonis and switch onto ball handlers without getting roasted over and over.

Andrew Wiggins, Jonathan Kuminga and Gary Payton II would each be the Kings’ top wing defender. Davion Mitchell is an absolute dog on-ball, but Donte DiVincenzo’s help defense closes that gap. Is Barnes even better than a post-injury Klay Thompson defensively? Stephen Curry is obviously a more proven playoff defender than Fox.

The Warriors’ only readily exploitable pressure point on that end is Jordan Poole. Rest assured the Kings will attack him relentlessly, getting Poole switched into primary actions and playing from there. But Golden State can pull similar levers offensively against Sacramento’s weakest defenders, and has enough collective size, athleticism and anticipation to cover its own mistakes with some amount of regularity. The same can’t be said for the Kings.

This series is bound to be played with offensive ratings in the 120s, better than Sacramento’s league-leading mark from the regular season. If either team can buckle down defensively for even just a game or two, it will go a long way toward deciding who emerges victorious.

What possible reason is there to believe the Kings are more likely to do it than the Warriors?

1. Steph Curry, by far this series’ best player

Sacramento could beat Golden State, but few believe this series is a true toss-up. The Warriors’ edge in experience and defensive ceiling—plus the advantage of traveling two hours up and down I-80 between road and home games—make them favorites, even if betting markets and casual fans are clearly underestimating the Kings.

Let’s take a step back and call all of the above equal. There’s an old NBA adage that a series which otherwise seems nip-and-tuck will simply be decided by its best player. Even the most brazen Sacramento homers have to admit that Curry is on another level—or two—than Sabonis and Fox, even before considering the all-time peak he reached en route to his first Finals MVP award last June.

What if Curry hits it again for multiple games in the first round?

What separates Curry from even other all-time greats is how he warps the floor without the ball. He won’t need to put on his cape of isolation shot-making and pick-and-roll pull-ups to play that superhero role for Golden State.

Especially with Sabonis on the floor, at Curry’s mercy on the perimeter, the Kings will be forced to commit mass attention his way, springing opportunities for others across the floor—sometimes from the same basic set.

Dubs ran same play on three straight halfcourt trips vs. SAC. Can see Dray calling it out, directing traffic between possessions.

Starts as double drag, but Steph hands to Dray as Looney sets veer screen for Klay.

1. Steph weak wing 3
2. Loon roll dunk
3. Klay missed 3 off pin pic.twitter.com/UhBLB91EOe

— Jack Winter (@ArmstrongWinter) October 25, 2022

No team has any sustainable answer for Curry, let alone the Kings. They found some success trapping him during the regular season, a gambit that Golden State should be able to counter under the playoff microscope and with a full-strength roster—and shortened playing rotation—at Steve Kerr’s disposal.

There’s not much doubt the Warriors are a better postseason team than Sacramento. If there was, Curry’s presence alone would be the trump card that makes Golden State poised to advance to the Western Conference Semifinals.

The post 3 reasons Warriors will beat Kings in 2023 NBA Playoffs appeared first on ClutchPoints.

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