Photo: Rich Pedroncelli, Associated Press
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SACRAMENTO — The NBA has trended toward a Warriors-like brand of basketball — in which tempo is ratcheted up, three-pointers are encouraged and positions are largely ignored — with a simple mind-set: To dethrone the champions, why not copy their template?
This formula has been surprisingly successful this season as Golden State struggles to contend with more extreme versions of the style it pioneered. In Saturday night’s 127-123 win over the Kings at Golden 1 Center, the Warriors were again forced to grapple with the fact that the rest of the league — even Sacramento — has narrowed the talent divide.
In a game that featured 18 lead changes and 11 ties, the Kings nearly weathered an inspired offensive onslaught by sinking a franchise-record 20 three-pointers, pouring in 32 fast-break points and dishing out 34 assists. Sacramento stormed back from an early 16-point deficit to take a 103-96 lead into the fourth quarter.
After De’Aaron Fox hit a driving layup with 2:40 left to put the Kings up 121-120, Stephen Curry responded with an old-fashioned three (a layup and a free throw). Little more than a minute later, Draymond Green found Andre Iguodala for an alley-oop dunk, giving Golden State a four-point cushion and silencing a raucous purple-clad crowd.
Such a heated, back-and-forth affair only fueled Kings fans eager to finally have a rivalry with their Northern California neighbors. In its two previous matchups this season with Golden State entering Saturday, Sacramento had lost by only one and five points. A team long considered a Western Conference doormat is looking like a playoff contender and a difficult out for the Warriors for years to come.
And it got to this point by following Golden State’s lead. Quoting a league source, ESPN reported in 2017 that Kings principal owner Vivek Ranadive — a former Warriors minority owner — has an “unhealthy fixation on the Warriors.” Only after Sacramento implemented an up-tempo, movement-heavy system reminiscent of Golden State’s did it begin to thrive.
Like the Warriors, the Kings have built through the draft and a couple of shrewd trades. Guard Buddy Hield, whom Ranadive has compared to Curry, scored a team-high 32 points Saturday with Curry-esque efficiency: 12-for-21 shooting, including 8-for-13 from three-point range.
However, Hield didn’t score in the fourth quarter. Curry poured in 20 points in the fourth en route to 42 points on 14-for-26 shooting, including 10-for-20 from three-point range. The 41 combined three-pointers that Sacramento and Golden State made Saturday set an NBA record for a single game.
It all was yet another reminder of how the Warriors’ recent dominance has changed the landscape of the league.
Two nights earlier, Golden State fell at home in overtime to a Houston team whose general manager, Daryl Morey, has publicly proclaimed that he built it to beat the Warriors. With Saturday’s win, Golden State moved within 1½ games of Denver — a club also trying to top the Warriors using their own style — for the West’s top seed.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/warriors/article/Warriors-ride-Stephen-Curry-s-big-night-to-win-13511739.php.