The Golden State Warriors haven’t had the ideal start to their opening round playoff series against the Sacramento Kings. Though they’ve had chances in both games, two consecutive tight losses have seen them heading back to Golden State with their backs against the wall, and badly needing a couple of wins on their home court to level up the series. However, all is not as dire as it seems. Here are three reasons why the Warriors can work their way back into this series, and advance to the second round of the playoffs.
1. Warriors experience
The experience differential in this series could hardly be more significant. Of the Kings starters, neither the Clutch Player of the Year De’Aaron Fox or Keegan Murray had ever played in the postseason prior to this series. Domantas Sabonis had played 13 playoff games, the last of which was in 2019. Kevin Huerter has a couple of postseason runs to his name with the Atlanta Hawks, while Harrison Barnes is their most experienced in this regard, ironically because of his stint with the Warriors; his most recent playoff game before this series came with them in 2016.
Those numbers stand in stark contrast to this dynastic Warriors team, who as we know, have playoff experience in spades. Andrew Wiggins had played 27 playoff games prior to this year, and that’s far and away the lowest number of any of their starters. Kevon Looney had 64, while for each of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green that number is closer to 150 – though of course Green will miss Game 3 through suspension. And not only have they played in playoff games; they’ve performed to a high standard in the biggest of moments.
Being down 2-0 is not an ideal spot for any team to be in, but with the bulk of this starting lineup having won four championships together, this is not a team which will shirk a challenge. Meanwhile, the Kings have never been here before, and if the series begins to tighten up and head towards a sixth and seventh game, they wouldn’t exactly be the first inexperienced team to struggle under the bright lights.
2. Three-point shooting
The Warriors are good at shooting; that’s no secret. Throughout the course of the regular season, they put up 43.2 three-point attempts per game, the most in the league. Despite the high volume, they still hit 38.5% of those attempts, the second most in the league. That has not, however, translated so far to the playoffs.
In the two games this series so far, the Warriors have taken plenty, putting up 45 attempts from beyond the arc, but they’ve connected on just 32.2% of them. Thompson has been okay, hitting 10-24 (41.7%) but Curry is 9-27 (33.3%), Jordan Poole is 2-8 (25%), while Wiggins has been the biggest culprit, hitting just 3 of his 16 attempts (18.8%). The Warriors have already been there or thereabouts in their opening two games on the road, losing by a combined total of just 11 points. They’re not going to shoot badly for the entire series, and if and when they start to hit a few more shots, it’ll be very hard for the Kings to beat them.
Another area in which the Kings have enjoyed an advantage which will likely not endure over the first couple of games of this series is turnovers, and more specifically the points which these have led to. Throughout the regular season, both of these teams averaged 17.6 second chance points per game. The Warriors do tend to give up a lot while the Kings are around league average in this regard, but while the former of those facts has been evident in this series, the latter has not.
Turnovers have been a problem for Golden State this series, with the Kings scoring 20 points per game from them in the first couple of games. This is not unexpected, but the level to which Sacramento have been able to avoid points off turnovers has been very impressive, but likely unsustainable. They’ve turned it over 13.5 times per game so far this series, but those turnovers have translated to only seven points per game. It’s hard to see that lasting, and if the Warriors can start to capitalize on the Kings’ turnovers it’ll go a long way to getting them back into the series.
Despite losing the first couple of games against the Kings, there is plenty of reason to believe the Warriors can still win the series. The young Kings have been mighty impressive so far, but the Warriors have been here a lot more, and their experience should hold them in good stead over the course of an extended series. On top of that, the Kings’ two victories have come by narrow margins despite the fact that the Warriors have struggled from beyond the arc and failed to produce nearly any offense from the turnovers the Kings have handed them. If the Warriors can iron out these issues, the might of the reigning champions should prove too much for their inexperienced opponents.
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