Kings eliminate Warriors, clash with Pelicans for 8th seed

Keegan Murray led with an impressive 32 points, while De’Aaron Fox chipped in an additional 24, collectively propelling the Sacramento Kings to stave off elimination in the play-in tournament. Their efforts culminated in a decisive 118-94 triumph over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday evening.

The victorious Kings now advance to square off against New Orleans on Friday evening, with the tantalizing opportunity of securing a return to the playoffs as the Western Conference’s eighth seed. This comes after they spectacularly snapped the NBA’s longest-ever 16-year playoff drought in the previous season.

In an act of sweet revenge, the Kings compensated for last year’s first-round Game 7 loss to Golden State. They outmaneuvered their seasoned rivals by sharpening their game and displaying swifter reactions, marking one of the franchise’s most critical victories in two decades. This win also marked the Kings’ most substantial victory over the Warriors since the notable win on February 21, 2006.

The disheartening defeat consigns Golden State to missing out on the playoffs for the third time in the past five seasons, including two instances via the play-in tournament. The Warriors, a far cry from the formidable team that clinched four titles between 2015 and ’22, were marred by 16 turnovers, surrendering 15 offensive rebounds and offering far too many unchallenged 3-point opportunities.

Notably, Klay Thompson missed all his 10 field shots, and Stephen Curry received minimal support, only managing 22 points in a game dominated by Keon Ellis’s persistent defense.

The unsung hero, Ellis, having been on a two-way contract until February, supplemented the Kings’ efforts with 15 points, complementing his robust defensive performance. Additionally, Harrison Barnes contributed 17 points, while Domantas Sabonis racked up 16 points and 12 rebounds for Sacramento.

Last year’s series victors, Golden State, were up against their Northern California counterparts, separated by less than 100 miles, in a rematch. Back then, Curry had managed a staggering 50 points in Game 7.

This season, the Pelicans have a pristine 5-0 record against the Kings. They are the first team to achieve a flawless record against a single opponent since the Heat’s dominance over the Nets in 1995-96.

Although the crowd’s energy couldn’t quite match the euphoria of last year’s celebration marking the end of Sacramento’s record-setting playoff drought, the noise levels remained high from the onset.

Murray’s performance was particularly noteworthy. His 8 3-pointers, featuring four in the opening quarter, helped the Kings establish a 16-point lead in the second quarter. However, a spirited rally by the Warriors’ bench reduced the deficit to 54-50 by halftime.

The Warriors came within a point early in the third quarter, but Sacramento promptly countered with a 19-5 run, punctuated by a pair of 3-pointers from Ellis, extending their lead back to a comfortable 15 points.

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