Stephen Curry had two chances to put the Kings away with under three minutes to play. But he missed a reverse layup inside after a brilliant backdoor cut freed him, then was so off-target on a wide open 3 that he followed his shot knowing it went awry.
But behind a swarming, locked in defense, the Warriors pulled away anyway. Curry didn’t have to be perfect for the Warriors to improve to 3-0.
The Warriors turned the ball over a season-low six times and got solid, all-around contributions from Curry (27 points, 10 assists, 7 rebounds, 3 steals), and Draymond Green (14 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists). By hustling back in transition and defending without fouling, Golden State limited the Kings to 45 second-half points.
Here are three takeaways from Sunday night’s 119-107 win in Sacramento:
Steph Curry, always a step ahead
Sometimes the most marvelous Stephen Curry plays aren’t the flashiest. They’re not always the 35-foot bombs or the perfect quarters. Some of the best moments are when Curry plays like he’s a scrappy genius trapped in a superstar’s body. When he makes decisions a split-second quicker than anyone else.
After he stole a looping Kings inbounds pass late in the second quarter, he coasted in for a layup and pointed at his temple, as if to tell the Kings “you’ve got to be smarter than that.”
A few possessions before the steal-and-score, Curry caught an outlet pass near midcourt, and didn’t even hesitate before lasering a cross-court pass to Damion Lee. He sensed Lee would be open and ready to shoot. The pass landed perfectly in Lee’s shooting pocket and the 3-pointer gave Curry his 5,000th career assist.
Curry feels the game as well as anyone that’s ever stepped on a court. When it shows up — in touch passes, jumping passing lanes, knowing exactly the right place to be — Curry appears to have a sixth sense.
And of course, there’s always room for appreciating the dazzling.
Keeping the receipts
The Warriors were interested in Davion Mitchell, inviting him to two pre-NBA Draft workouts. Mitchell’s defensive acumen and explosive athleticism impressed Golden State’s front office, but not enough to pass on Jonathan Kuminga with the seventh overall pick.
Kuminga’s superstar potential may still surface; the forward hasn’t yet made his NBA debut due to a minor knee injury and played sparingly in the preseason.
But Mitchell, whom the Kings selected at No. 9, already looks like a steal. The best player on the 2021 national champion Baylor Bears plays like a more wiry Donovan Mitchell (no relation), with shifty pull-up moves and a lightning first step.
In his first two NBA games, he missed 12 of his first 14 shots. But his possibly culture-setting defense turned heads, with teammate Buddy Hield already declaring him “the best on-ball defender in the league.”
Against the Warriors, though, Mitchell scored 22 points on 9-for-16 shooting. On Curry duty, Mitchell defended as disruptively as any rookie could, but still took his rite-of-passage lumps.
Mitchell wasn’t shy about seeking his own shot, both off the dribble and the catch. He pulled up for a 3 over Gary Payton II’s closeout, then beat Nemanja Bjelica with a hesitation dribble and got to the basket for a layup. Later, he pumped a shot on the perimeter, drew two defenders on his drive and found Richaun Holmes inside for a dunk. Mitchell also drove the seam of Golden State’s zone — a fleeting first-half strategy — for a layup.
The Warriors were one of eight teams that passed on Mitchell. Sunday, Mitchell played like he didn’t forget it.
Golden State’s depth has shown in a variety of ways each game so far this season. Sunday, without Andre Iguodala (hip soreness), Gary Payton II enjoyed an outsized role. Otto Porter Jr. also contributed more in the non-Curry minutes to start the fourth quarter as a small-ball center.
Those two, along with Juan Toscano-Anderson, Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins, played so well that head coach Steve Kerr delayed the typically scheduled returns of Curry and Draymond Green until 4:57 left in the fourth.
The small group outscored the Kings by four in seven minutes of play. They switched everything defensively, with Porter Jr. providing some rim protection and a team-high nine rebounds. He also played crunch time, finding Wiggins in the corner off a short roll for a big 3.
Payton II nailed a pair of 3s, and Poole found Lee underneath on a fast break for an easy bucket. The bench unit played crisp, turnover-free offense and swarming defense. Payton II and Lee were two of six Warriors to score at least 10 points.
Kerr said the team will be cautious with Iguodala, doing everything they can to ensure he’s fresh for the playoffs. With such a dearth of talent, the Warriors are more than prepared to withstand his — or additional — absences.