SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Golden State Warriors knew they needed to win a game on the road to advance further into the postseason. So as they returned to Golden 1 Center, Stephen Curry said, “Might as well make it Game 5.”
With the seconds ticking down Wednesday night, Curry received the ball from Draymond Green just inches over half-court. Domantas Sabonis and Harrison Barnes immediately doubled him and shadowed his every movement as he bobbed and weaved — first just inside the 3-point arch, then back out toward midcourt, then directly to the hoop.
Curry almost lost his handle but recovered quickly. He turned and saw an inch of space between him, Barnes and the basket. And with that, he went for the layup, drew the contact and hit the dagger shot, as the Warriors beat the Sacramento Kings 123-116 to take a 3-2 lead in their first-round playoff series.
“It’s one of the best feelings in basketball, figuring out a way to win in a hostile environment,” Curry said. “As the lower seed, winning on the road is a big deal. It’s hard to do. … Big night for us, and you could feel the sense of accomplishment.”
When Curry said the Warriors needed to win Wednesday night’s game, it sounded simple. Golden State has now won at least one road game in 28 consecutive playoff series — an NBA record.
But, given the woes that have followed and haunted the Warriors on the road all season, it wasn’t a given. It was season-defining.
“We had the belief that we could win a game like tonight,” Curry said. “All the disappointment of the regular season, the first two games of this series, we didn’t have much to show for that belief. It’s a message you preach all year — there are things we have to continue to learn, make the adjustments we need to, have the focus to close a game out like tonight, and then you end up doing it. … As much as we’ve accomplished, this is another good reminder again, how hard it is to win and what it takes to do it.”
The Warriors went just 11-30 away from Chase Center during the regular season. They won two consecutive road games only twice. The only time they beat a Western Conference playoff team away from home was their second-to-last game of the schedule against a depleted Kings team.
But, they are adamant that they are a different team than they were a few months ago. The Warriors have a few reasons for that belief, but what it boils down to is that they feel they are finally whole.
“Every year the team has to grow together,” Green said. “This year took a little longer than you’d normally like but it’s coming together at the right time for us. Now we know we have guys we can put on the floor that we trust to make the right plays in these pressure situations, and it’s starting to go well for us.”
Wednesday saw one of the most complete efforts from the Warriors from top to bottom, but at the core of their road win was a balanced attack from all of their key figures.
The Warriors had four 20-point scorers, tied for their most in a playoff game in franchise history. It is the first time they’ve done so since 2013.
Curry led the way with 31 points, while Klay Thompson finished with 25, Green with 21 (his first 20-point game since 2019) and Andrew Wiggins with 20.
Kevon Looney added 20 rebounds, becoming the third player in franchise history to have three playoff games of the sort.
“He’s that stabilizing force that allows everyone else to focus on what they need to focus on,” Green said. “The way he rebounds the ball is incredible. His playmaking has taken another step in the right direction, and he continues to get better. He’s a guy we have the ultimate trust in.”
Gary Payton II’s defense was the final piece to the puzzle. When Payton checked in with 8:20 to go in the second quarter, Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox — playing through a fractured finger — had 15 points in his first 12 minutes. But, Fox then went 0-of-4 with Payton as his primary defender and finished with 24 points on the night.
Down the stretch in the final five minutes of the game, the Warriors’ experience in the playoffs, but in particular their experience in a do-or-die situation, became apparent.
Wiggins muscled his way to the hoop for a 3-foot shot. A few minutes later, Green hit a one-legged fadeaway that had the team calling him “Draymond Nowitzki.” On the next offensive possession, Thompson hit a 21-foot jump shot. All of that led to Curry’s eventual dagger.
As the final seconds wound down, the fans who filled Golden 1 Center with their cowbells and miniature beams made their way to the exits. It’s a sight the Warriors have seen many times. But it never goes unappreciated. If anything, the Warriors cherish it even more after the regular season they had.
“It’s very familiar, but it never gets old,” Thompson said. He, Curry and Green have been a part of all 28 series in which the Warriors have gotten a road win. “To walk off that floor victorious, especially with guys you’ve been with for a decade-plus, that’s so rare in professional sports.”
“To still be riding on the same train with the guys you rode in with, there’s no better feeling,” Green said. “It’s a rare, rare thing, and we want to keep this thing going as long as we can. You cherish it more.”