The Golden State Warriors clawed back in their NBA playoff series against Sacramento with a 114-97 rout of the Kings.
The reigning champion Warriors avoided a 3-0 hole, despite the absence of star Draymond Green, who was suspended one game for stamping on Sacramento’s Domantas Sabonis in game two.
The Warriors, who were 33-8 at home in the regular season, led wire-to-wire, pushing the advantage to as many as 23 points to cut the series deficit to 2-1.
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The Warriors got the fast start and led 29-20 at the first change.
Asked at quarter-time how his team was handling paying attention to detail, Kings coach Mike Brown said: “Not great. We told them that the refs ain’t going to be calling the game in our favour – I think the fouls are like 8-2 or 8-1 – so we knew that was going to happen.
“We knew they were going to come out and their crowd was going to be very energetic – and it is – and they’re hyped because of it … It’s on us right now to try and change it.”
Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 36 points, while centre Kevon Looney pulled down 20 rebounds – including nine offensive boards – winning the battle with Sabonis.
“We’re a team with a lot of pride, we know how to respond when our back’s against the wall, we always usually show up,” Looney said.
“I think Draymond knew that. Without him playing he knew how we were going to respond. He knew he could count on us to hold down the fort while he’s out. We’re excited to get him back next game.”
Sabonis scored 15 points and grabbed 16 rebounds for the Kings, who were led by De’Aaron Fox’s 26 points.
“Losing both games (in Sacramento) was a tough way to start,” said Curry, leader of the Warriors’ four-title dynasty but who had never before been down 2-0 in a series.
Curry, who passed Dirk Nowitzki for the 16th-most career points in NBA playoff history, said the Warriors were stung by Green’s suspension but knew “we couldn’t change the decision that we knew was wrong”.
“But,” he added, “if we could come out and win tonight and change the momentum of the series, that gives us an opportunity to make it about basketball.”
The Phoenix Suns, fuelled by Devin Booker’s 45 points, went up 2-1 in their series after a 129-124 victory over the Clippers in Los Angeles.
Booker’s haul was the most points scored by any player in this year’s NBA playoffs so far, while it was also his fifth 40-plus point post-season game — equalling Charles Barkley for the most in the Suns’ history.
“I love it. This is my life,” Booker told reporters post-game.
“I dedicate my whole entire life and I have since I was a kid to this sport and this game.”
The Clippers had to make do without star Kawhi Leonard, who was ruled out with a knee sprain as they returned home after splitting the first two games with the Suns in Phoenix.
It was a heavy blow for a team already without injured star Paul George, and even 42 points from Norman Powell and 30 points from Russell Westbrook weren’t enough against a Suns team that had 28 points from Kevin Durant.