For the Kings, this was a beatdown of the Warriors they’ve waited a year to give

For the Sacramento Kings, this was the Warriors whipping they waited a year to deliver.

Playing with a ferocity and focus that has been too often missing during the regular season, the Kings eliminated the mighty Golden State Warriors Tuesday night at a joyous Golden 1 Center.

The final score of 118-94 flattered the Warriors, whose second-stringers narrowed the margin of victory in garbage time. This was the performance of the season for a Kings team that sometimes came up small in big games.

With 32 points, this was also the breakout moment the Kings have been expecting from Keegan Murray. This was the kind of comprehensive win the Kings have in them when they play with equal parts energy and toughness.

On Tuesday, they did not whine to the refs about calls that weren’t made. The Kings did not abandon driving to the basket in favor of questionable shots from distance. They did not let up on Warriors talisman Steph Curry, who was held to a modest 22 points and had to work every one of them.


The Kings never wavered, and the Warriors never answered. The Kings advance in the NBA play-in tournament, the Warriors go home.

Play with no fear

From the beginning, this game felt different from the end of the season and one bitter defeat after another. Murray answered a 3-point shot from Warriors villain Draymond Green with one of his own. De’Aaron Fox skied for a dunk that brought the crowd to its feet. Domantas Sabonis muscled his way to a layup and played with a controlled rage that was missing when these two teams tangled last year.

More than anything, the Kings played without fear or apprehension. They came out of the tunnel fully focused in a way they often weren’t during regular-season home games, where Kings players grew addicted to bad 3-point shots that allowed calmer, tougher teams to erase big leads

Sabonis’ toughness forced Warriors coach Steve Kerr to sit rookie Trayce Jackson-Davis when he couldn’t deal with the Kings’ big man.

Kings, a proxy for Father Time

At the end of the third quarter, with the Kings leading the Warriors 91-76, Kings players swarmed the great Curry, deflected his shot and denied him a chance to hit a jaw-dropping 3 that can kill the confidence of his opponents.

This was a theme. Curry had his moments, but at the end of three quarters, he had only 16 points. No other Warrior had more than 12 and Klay Thompson, one of the great 3-point shooters in NBA history, had no points and one turnover.

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) sits on the court after a broken play against the Sacramento Kings during an NBA play-in game at Golden 1 Center on Tuesday, April 16, 2024. Paul Kitagaki Jr./
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) sits on the court after a broken play against the Sacramento Kings during an NBA play-in game at Golden 1 Center on Tuesday, April 16, 2024. Paul Kitagaki Jr./

By contrast, Murray had 26, Fox 24, and Keon Ellis had 13.

The Kings hounded Curry’s every step, swarming him, collapsing on him. In the old days of the Warriors dynasty, when Curry was double-teamed, Thompson made opponents pay. But on Tuesday, he had little to give. The desire was there, as with Green, but the Kings were a proxy for Father Time.

And Father Time remained undefeated, Warriors dynasty or no.

In truth, this beatdown should have been administered a year ago, when the young Kings had the talent, speed and desire to eliminate the Warriors — but not the emotional maturity.

The irony is that this Kings season has been viewed in sour terms by fans whose expectations have not been met. They have been disappointed by this Kings team blowing 13 double-digit leads andlosing to miserable franchises from Charlotte, Detroit and Washington, D.C.

So, who are these Kings?

Who are these guys, we wondered? On Tuesday, without injured sixth-man Malik Monk, the Kings answered the question.

The Kings took a 19-point lead with 5:57 left and Curry tried to summon the magic. He stepped out of bounds. Before that, Thompson missed his fourth 3-point shot. Before that, Green turned the ball over, eliciting howls from Kings fans.

The Kings led by 20 with 5:11 left. Warriors fans who showed up in big numbers stood in their blue and gold jerseys, arms crossed, seeing what very likely is the end of the line for a singular group that won four NBA titles and came close to winning two others.

These players — Curry, Thompson, Green — changed the NBA. Kerr, one of the great coaches in league history, now has all the time in the world to coach Team USA in the Summer Olympics.

With 2:32 left, Kings fans began chanting “Light the Beam,” which was much earlier than usual. They knew during the regular season that no lead was safe.

But this lead was safe. The Warriors had nothing and they knew it. When play resumed after the beam chant, Kerr sat his starters. Thompson’s stat line told the Warrior’s story: 0-for-10 shooting.

Meanwhile, fans can debate whether this was the most momentous Kings win since 2002, 22 years ago, when a different Kings team played in the Western Conference Finals.

To their credit, the Warriors were gracious in defeat. Opposing players embraced as did the opposing coaches.

For the Kings, what comes next is an even greater challenge. Collectively, they were Superman on Tuesday. But awaiting them on Friday is their kryptonite — the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Pelicans beat the Kings all five times they played them during the regular season. The Kings weren’t only beaten in several of those games, they were embarrassed.

On Friday, the Pelicans could beat the Kings for the sixth time this season and prevent a Kings playoff run, as the Warriors did last year.

But if the Kings finally buck the odds, if Tuesday’s win was emblematic of a hard-earned progression that carries over to New Orleans, a fan base and franchise will be hungry for more.