The Sacramento Kings’ Game 1 win over the Golden State Warriors highlighted the first night of the 2023 NBA Playoffs. The Kings outlasted the defending champions 126-123 in an instant classic, securing the franchise’s first playoff win in 17 years.
The Kings proved that they aren’t simply happy to be in the 2023 NBA Playoffs. After ending the longest postseason drought in league history, Sacramento has a real chance to eliminate the Warriors in the first-round series. The Kings overcame a 10-point deficit with 15 minutes left in regulation and withstood a Stephen Curry 3-point attempt as time expired that would’ve sent Game 1 into overtime.
How exactly did the Kings beat the Warriors in Game 1? Let’s take a closer look at Sacramento’s epic victory over Golden State.
Sacramento Kings dominated with Stephen Curry out
Game 1 was a typical standout Stephen Curry performance. The 2022 NBA Finals MVP scored 30 points on 11-of-20 shooting. Curry made six of his 14 attempts from 3-point range. Despite playing a box-and-one against Curry, the Kings had few answers for the greatest shooter of all time. And yet, Sacramento survived because of how well it played when Curry was on the bench.
The Warriors outscored the Kings by 11 points when Curry was on the floor. In the 11 minutes that Curry rested, Sacramento outscored Golden State by 14 points. It was the biggest difference in the Kings’ Game 1 victory.
Game 1 might’ve ultimately been decided at the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth quarter. Curry went to the bench with the Warriors holding an 86-78 lead. By the time Curry returned to the floor with a little over nine minutes left in regulation, Golden State was trailing 101-97.
De’Aaron Fox played like a superstar for the Sacramento Kings
Casual NBA fans who might not have known that De’Aaron Fox is a superstar are certainly aware of that fact after watching Game 1. Fox got off to a slow start in his playoff debut. Over the final two quarters, the Kings’ guard was the best player on either team.
Fox finished Game 1 with 38 points, five assists and three steals. The 25-year-old orchestrated Sacramento’s offense to perfection in the second half, during which he scored 29 points. Fox set up his teammates for wide-open 3-pointers in a marvelous performance.
Game 1 might not end up being an outlier for Fox in the Kings-Warriors series. The All-Star was one of the NBA’s best players in the regular season. He averaged 25.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game while shooting 51.2% from the field.
Malik Monk and the Sacramento Kings’ bench stepped up
It’s not often that the Splash Brothers are outscored by an opposing backcourt by a wide margin, but that’s exactly what happened in Game 1. It wasn’t starting shooting guard Kevin Huerter who teamed up with Fox to accomplish the feat. Instead, Malik Monk exploded for 32 points off the bench to lead the Kings past the Warriors.
Monk was incredibly efficient, shooting 8-of-13 from the field and making all 14 of his free-throw attempts. Monk scored seven points during Curry’s final stint on the bench, propelling the Kings ahead of the Warriors to start the fourth quarter. The Kings’ sixth man was simply better than Klay Thompson, who was limited to 21 points on 19 shots.
Monk wasn’t the only member of Sacramento’s bench who stepped up. Domantas Sabonis had an uncharacteristically poor game, missing 12 of his 17 field goals. Backup center Alex Len made the most of his 13 minutes, grabbing seven rebounds and scoring four points. Trey Lyles went 4-of-6 from behind the arc, finishing with 16 points in 18 minutes.
Both Monk and Len were plus-10 off the bench. The Kings outscored the Warriors by seven points with Lyles on the floor.
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