2023 Playoffs: West First Round | Kings (3) vs. Warriors (6)

5 takeaways from Warriors' Game 5 win in Sacramento

The Warriors show their championship mettle in powering past the Kings for a vital Game 5 win.

Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson give the Warriors a huge road win in Sacramento to take Game 5.

SACRAMENTO – After the first two games of this first-round matchup between the Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors, the defending champions faced a situation that they had never seen during their run of four championships and six Finals appearances in an eight-year span: they trailed a series 0-2.

They have responded with three consecutive wins, including an impressive 123-116 victory in Sacramento on Wednesday that saw the Warriors get contributions from up and down the roster to fend off a young and hungry Kings squad.

This Northern California matchup was the only first-round series tied at 2-2 through four games, which set up a pivotal Game 5 that has put the Warriors in the driver’s seat with a chance to close out the series at home on Friday, and the Kings on the brink of elimination and a sudden end to their first playoff appearance in 17 years.

Here are five key takeaways from Golden State’s 123-116 win.

1. Road Warriors

The Warriors’ road woes this season are well-documented. They finished 11-30 on the road, the fourth-worst road record in the NBA in 2022-23 ahead of only three lottery-bound teams: Detroit, San Antonio and Houston.

After dropping the first two on the road to open this season, the Warriors finally broke through and kept Sacramento’s trademark purple beam from lighting up the night sky.

“Everyone has been asking about the road and what’s bothered us on the road,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after the game. “This is a different team than what we had all year. So, what happened in December, January and February on the road has nothing to do with right now. The team you’re looking at right now is the team that won the championship.”

With the win, the Warriors extend their record streak of winning at least one road game in 28 consecutive playoff series. They have a chance to close out the series back to Chase Center on Friday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN) — where they went 33-8 during the regular season and are 2-0 in this series — and avoid a win-or-go-home Game 7 back in Sacramento on Sunday.

2. A little ‘Dray Nowitzki’

With the Warriors clinging to a 111-110 win with just under four minutes to play, the Kings forced the ball out of Stephen Curry’s hands outside the 3-point line and he found Draymond Green at the left elbow. Green took a dribble toward the paint, then pulled up for a fadeaway jumper that rattled in to put Golden State back up by three points and gave Green 21 points.

Green picked an opportune time to put up his first 20-plus point game since 2019. He finished with 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field and 1-of-2 from 3-point range. He was one of four Warriors to score at least 20 in this game, joining Curry (game-high 31), Klay Thompson (25 with five 3-pointers) and Andrew Wiggins (20).

“Draymond was amazing down the stretch,” Kerr said. “They were calling him ‘Draymond Nowitzki’ after the fadeaway, that was maybe the biggest shot of the game, that and Wiggins’ fadeaway [that put Golden State up by five with 48 seconds to play]. There were lots of big shots in the game, but those two stand out. Sacramento played really good defense and those guys made tough shots.”

Wednesday’s performance by Green was the epitome of the positives he brings outweighing the negatives that can come like they did with his Game 3 suspension after he stepped on Domantas Sabonis in Game 2.

“He’s emotional and at times crosses the line as he would readily admit, but at his core that comes from competitive desire, he just wants to win and compete,” Kerr said. “We try to help him through those moments, he got into it midway through the fourth when didn’t get a call, but he kept his poise and immediately made four massive plays.”

3. Looney delivers on the glass

Kevon Looney had 22 rebounds in Game 5, marking his second 20-rebound game of the series.

During the 2019 Finals between the Warriors and Toronto Raptors, a profile story on Kawhi Leonard’s college days brought to light a catchphrase from the often-quiet two-time Finals MVP: “Board man gets paid.”

Warriors center Kevon Looney isn’t up for a new contract anytime soon, but if he were, this game could serve as his greatest evidence to showcase his contributions to the team.

Looney was a monster on the glass in Game 5, finishing with 22 rebounds, including seven offensive rebounds. Prior to the game, the Kings presented Sabonis with a trophy to celebrate him being the NBA’s regular-season rebound king (12.3 rpg this season). Over the next 2 1/2 hours, Looney outrebounded Sabonis 22-10.

Down the stretch of the game, Kerr kept both of his bigs on the court, as opposed to going back to Jordan Poole (who started his second straight game in place of Green).

“Looney gets all the rebounds, so what we give up in spacing we make up for in rebounds and defense,” Kerr said.

4. Kings frigid on 3-pointers

During the regular season, the Kings ranked fifth in 3-pointers made (13.8 per game) and ninth in 3-point percentage (36.9%). Through the first four games of the series, the Kings are 46-for-152 (30.3%) from beyond the arc.

The lids appeared to come off the rims for the Kings in the first quarter as they made seven of their first nine 3-point attempts: three from De’Aaron Fox and two apiece from Keegan Murray and Davion Mitchell that had Golden 1 Center rocking.

The Kings finished the quarter shooting 8-of-12 from 3-point range. As hot as they were to start, they went cold from there. The Kings shot just 2-of-22 from 3-point range over the final three quarters of the game.

When the Kings battled back into the game in the fourth quarter, they did so by attacking the basket consistently, spearheaded by Malik Monk. He finished with 21 points after behind held scoreless on 0-of-4 shooting in the first half. Monk was the only Kings player to finish with a positive plus/minus in Game 5.

If the Kings hope to keep their season alive on Friday, they will have to find a way to replicate some of that first-quarter shooting magic and avoid another 3-point drought.

5. Rough night for Fox

When it was announced that De’Aaron Fox suffered a fractured finger on his shooting hand, a collective “ugh” was likely uttered by Kings fans. He was listed as doubtful for Game 5, but at the following day’s practice, Fox made it clear he would play through the injury.

Fox enjoyed a hot-shooting first quarter in which he sank his first three 3-pointers. However, that shooting touch from deep abandoned Fox (and the Kings, as noted above) as Game 5 wore on.

During his postgame news conference, Fox was quick to say he was fine when asked about how his hand felt throughout the game. There were a number of times he held his hand and shook it out in the fourth quarter.

“I was fine,” he said. “You know it’s going to get hit, but I’m alright.”

Like Sabonis, Fox had his pregame trophy moment as he was presented his Jerry West Trophy as the winner of the NBA’s first Kia Clutch Player of the Year award. He won the award based off his clutch performances in the fourth quarter of the regular season. It was a different story in Game 5, though, as he went 0-for-6 while playing the entire fourth quarter.

He credited Golden State’s defense and put the pressure on himself to deliver in those situations. “Personally, I have to play better in the second half.”

After extended breaks marked the time between the first four games in the series, there is just one off day between Games 5 and 6 and Games 6 and 7 (if necessary). How will Fox’s finger hold up with limited time between games the rest of the way?

Stephen Curry and the Warriors show their championship mettle in Game 5 with clutch play and cool heads under pressure.