Threes expected to play large impact in Kings Warriors play-in game

Apr 16, 2024, 9:00 AM

Harrison Barnes #40 of the Sacramento Kings reacts after making a three-point basket against the Go...

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 25: Harrison Barnes #40 of the Sacramento Kings reacts after making a three-point basket against the Golden State Warriors in the second half at Chase Center on January 25, 2024 in San Francisco, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Since Malik Monk and Kevin Huerter have gone down, the Sacramento Kings have improved defensively but struggled with offensive inconsistencies. With less ideal spacing for De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, increased importance has been placed on triples. With Tuesday’s Kings Warriors play-in matchup, it’s hard to imagine three-point shooting not playing a substantial factor.

Sacramento ended the regular season third in three-point attempts per game (39.3), with Golden State trailed close behind in fourth (38.9). Yet, the Warriors finished seventh in percentage at 38.0 percent compared to the Kings 36.6 percent, ranking them 16th among NBA teams.

With crucial availabilities to their best shooters, Mike Brown asks his players to shoot when an opportunity presents itself. “During the regular season, if you have an open shot, you have to take it,” he said. “During this situation or the playoffs, especially the further you move along, you have to, you have to take any open shot that comes your way because if you don’t, especially as you advance, these are the better teams in the league and usually the better teams in the league are better defensively.

“So, if you turn down open shots, you’re going to probably get a worse shot in that possession. So, for me, if that means we take thirty threes, then we take thirty threes. If we take fifty threes, then we take fifty threes, and we will have to be okay with it no matter what the result is at the end of the day.”

The Kings Warriors play-in game also featured two teams favoring protecting the paint over prioritizing opposing shooters. Golden State conceded the sixth-highest three-point attempt tally per game (37.0) in the regular season, allowing 35.9 percent on conversions (11th best).

Sacramento, meanwhile, allowed just 33.8 three-point attempts per game but gave up the second-highest percentage at 38.7 percent, trailing only the Utah Jazz, who allowed their opponents to shoot 39.5 percent from deep.

Second-year player Keon Ellis, who who promoted from a two-way contract in the middle of the season, and improved shooter Davion Mitchell could be dared to shoot by Steve Kerr and the Warriors.

Mitchell has played 48 games since the turn of the calendar year and knocked down 40.9 percent of his 2.3 attempts from distance. Ellis has been efficient from range all season when given opportunity, finishing at 41.7 percent on 2.9 triples per game.

At the end of the regular season, teams did not guard Ellis (or Mitchell) with urgency from beyond the arc, going under screens and gladly helping off to aid in containing dribble drives from Fox or Sabonis. Sacramento head coach Mike Brown was asked if he expects Kerr to make Ellis prove himself in Tuesday’s Kings Warriors play-in matchup.

“If I know those guys, I think they would respect his shooting,” he said. Brown spent six seasons with Kerr in Golden State before joining Sacramento last season. “But, they may give him an opportunity to see if he can make one or two at the start because of the moment, but I don’t think Keon is afraid, so I think he’ll be great.”

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There are also improvements Fox made individually as a shooter. Last year, the Kentucky alum shot 32.4 percent on 5.4 threes per game. Those numbers increased to a career-high 7.9 attempts at a 36.9 percent rate this season.

Against the Warriors last postseason, Fox’s average nine three-point attempts per game and converted 33.3 percent of those looks. If he can increase that rate in the Kings Warriors play-in game this Tuesday, it could greatly aid Sacramento’s chances. The guard isn’t expecting Golden State’s schemes to vary much from their recent postseason battle.

“I think they’re top-10 in the league in protecting the paint. They’re bottom-10 in protecting the three,” Fox said. “That’s their schematics. Obviously, in the playoffs it’s a bit more emphasized, but, at the end of the day, if you watch them play that’s what they do, it’s not changing for anybody or anybody that they play against, that’s just the way that we play defensively.

“Obviously with Wiggins, Draymond, and Kevon they like to roam a lot, they’re not necessarily a great shot blocking team, but they protect the rim almost better than anybody, so that’s not a surprise and that’s what we expect them to do.”

On average, just 41.3 percent of the Warriors’ points come from within the paint, the fifth-lowest rate in the league. Sacramento’s 43.6 percent ranked 18th in the regular season. Both teams are heavily reliant on their three-ball.

Trying to outpace and outshoot a backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson is not an ideal winning formula, but finding ways to limit their efficiency while also being willing to live with good (or recently improved but unproven) shooters of your own could work in the Kings’ favor.

While relying on Harrison Barnes to score 39 points as he did in the final regular season matchup between these teams seems unwise, it’s a good reminder that truly anything can happen in a single-elimination basketball game. And it just might come down to who can be more effective from distance on Tuesday.

When is the next Sacramento Kings game?

The stage is set for a Kings vs. Warriors rematch.

Sacramento will get a chance at redemption on Tuesday night when it faces Golden State in another win-or-go-home showdown. The ninth-seed Kings will look to send the tenth-seed Warriors home when the two teams meet at Golden 1 Center.

Not even one year ago, Stephen Curry’s 50-point performance eliminated Sacramento in Game 7 of the NBA Playoffs’ opening round, which also took place on the Kings’ home floor.

Sacramento and Golden State split the regular season series 2-2 this season, with both teams winning one game at home and on the road.

Be sure to tune in right here on Sactown Sports 1140 for all of your Kings vs. Warriors coverage, beginning at 5:30 PM PST on Game Night before a 7:00 PM PST tip-off from Golden 1 Center.

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