The Kings might catch the Golden State Warriors at the most vulnerable point in an era of near invincibility when they face the two-time defending champions Saturday at Oracle Arena.
The Kings (10-8) are over .500 after 18 games for the first time since the 2004-05 season. They are coming off back-to-back wins over the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz, impressive victories that helped calm the storm after Yahoo Sports reported that coach Dave Joerger was at odds with the team’s front office over playing-time decisions.
“Winning brings so much joy to this team, especially a young team, and nobody expected us to be winning,” Kings guard Buddy Hield said. “So we’ve just got to stay together, stay humble, keep working (and) keep watching film.”
Meanwhile, the Warriors (12-7) are dealing with injuries, locker room dissension and their first prolonged losing streak in years. After going 10-1 to start the season, the Warriors had lost four in a row and five of their last six going into Friday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers. It was their first four-game losing streak since Steve Kerr was named head coach in 2014, when the Warriors began a run of three NBA titles in four years.
“I’ve had a dream run for four and a half years,” Kerr told ESPN.com following a loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday. “We’ve had such a charmed existence the last four seasons. This is the toughest stretch we’ve been in. This is the real NBA. We haven’t been in the real NBA the last few years. We’ve been in this dream. So now we’re faced with real adversity and we’ve got to get out of it ourselves.”
Two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry was involved in a multi-car collision Friday in Oakland, but he was not hurt, according to reports. Curry has missed the last seven games due to a groin injury. He is scheduled to be reevaluated before Saturday’s game against the Kings but is not expected to play.
Draymond Green, a three-time All-Star and the 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, has missed five of the last eight games with a lingering toe injury. Green was also suspended for the team’s Nov. 13 game against the Atlanta Hawks after launching into a profanity-laced tirade against teammate Kevin Durant.
Durant’s scoring average is up slightly with Curry out of the lineup, but his shooting percentage is down. In 12 games with Curry this season, Durant is shooting 55 percent from the field, averaging 26.8 points per contest. In seven games without Curry, Durant is averaging 27.9 points on 43-percent shooting.
The Warriors will be playing the second night of a back-to-back and their third game in four nights when they entertain the Kings, who had two full days of rest after beating Utah on Wednesday. A win over the Warriors could serve as a springboard for the Kings as they approach a favorable portion of their schedule. They will play seven of their next 11 against teams that had sub-.500 records going into Friday’s games.
The Kings had lost five of seven before beating the Thunder and Jazz earlier this week. The players seemed to rally around each other and their coach in the days after a report surfaced suggesting Joerger’s job could be in jeopardy due to philosophical differences with the front office.
“We’ve just got to stay consistent,” Kings forward Iman Shumpert said. “We’ve got to pick an identity and you’ve just got to work to build. You can’t hit a skid and then change who you are.
“We expect up and down in a season. It’s a long season. Injuries happen. A lot of different things happen. You’ve just got to be ready to sort of way with everything that’s going on. You can’t let it take you off track.”