The Golden State Warriors won’t be surprised to see a much-improved Kings team Friday night when they visit Golden 1 Center for the first time this season.
The two-time defending NBA champions have been singing Sacramento’s praises since the teams met last month in Oakland.
The Kings (15-12) have won two in a row and five of their last six. They are coming off a wild 141-130 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday and are going into the second of 13 consecutive games against Western Conference playoff contenders.
“It’s a great feeling getting back on a winning streak, but we know it’s a tough stretch that we’ve got going on (and) coming up,” Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox said. “Just starting up.”
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The Warriors (19-10) are nearing full strength after playing several games without All-Stars Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. They had won four in a row before suffering a 113-93 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday.
The Kings are off to their best start since 2004-05, when they went 18-9 over their first 27 games and made the playoffs with a 50-32 record. Warriors star Kevin Durant complimented the Kings and coach Dave Joerger for the second time in a matter of weeks on a recent episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast.
“They’re playing fast,” Durant said. “(Joerger) is putting the ball in his players’ hands and ... putting them in great positions to be successful. ... That’s the sign of a good coach and you can tell his players like that.”
Durant poured in 44 points and Klay Thompson scored 31 to lead the Warriors to a thrilling 117-116 victory over the Kings on Nov. 24 at Oracle Arena. Buddy Hield led Sacramento with 28 points. Marvin Bagley III came off the bench to post 20 points and 17 rebounds.
After the game, Durant said he likes the team the Kings are building around Fox.
“If you hand the ball over to De’Aaron Fox, he will change your franchise,” Durant said. “That is the type of player he is. ... They (have) a nice young team. They (are) just young right now, but they (are) going to be really good in the future.”
Thompson was impressed, too.
“It’s different than what I’m used to and they’re playing the right way,” Thompson said. “They seem very composed for a young team as well. They’ve got a bright future. They’ve got a lot of great young pieces.”
This game could be decided by 3-point shooting. The Kings lead the league at 39.4 percent. The Warriors are second at 39 percent.
The Kings are way down the list at 24th in 3-point attempts with 28.5 per contest, but they have increased their volume over the last three games. They attempted 32 3-pointers against the Indiana Pacers, 37 against the Chicago Bulls and 38 against Minnesota, shooting 41.1 percent in those games and making a franchise-record 19 3s against the Timberwolves.
Fox said the team’s offense is predicated on its defense, which will be critical against a team with Golden State’s extraordinary talent and firepower.
“Making shots and getting stops,” he said. “When we’re getting stops, the ball just happens to go through the net.”
The Kings are exceeding expectations and trying to stay afloat until their schedule lightens up a little in the second week of January. Until then, Joerger will continue to encourage togetherness among a group of players who recently dubbed themselves “the ballclub” and the “brotherhood.”
“I love the chemistry that we have with our team,” Joerger said. “Guys are cheering for each other like crazy.”