Warriors survive test from Heat: 'Definitely a different game'

Warriors survive test from Heat: 'Definitely a different game'

OAKLAND -- The Miami Heat these days aren’t much to look at. The megastars have abandoned South Beach, leaving the franchise to hatch anew. Yet as the brain trust eyes the future, those still in uniform play with an admirable relentlessness.

Which is exactly what the Warriors need to see and feel, as often as possible.

If the Warriors are to reach the NBA summit in June, they’re going to need plenty of experience in rugged, ugly, borderline-brutal games, such as that which the Heat forced them into Tuesday night at Oracle Arena.

Though the Warriors prevailed, 107-95, they took many blows along the way, beating back multiple rallies. Not until the final seconds were they able to exhale.

“They play hard every possession,” coach Steve Kerr said of the Heat.

“They just play hard,” Stephen Curry said. “Every possession, they were coming at you.”

For a team like the Warriors, who can get casual about their abundance of talent, being pushed and shoved and made to perspire is fabulous practice.

As is having an 11-point lead after three quarters shaved to three by the middle of the fourth.

The Warriors were put in a position where they had to execute, or else risk losing to a team that had lost eight of nine and entered the evening with an 11-28 record.

They succeeded.

“Yeah, we didn’t turn the ball over, which is helping us at least get shots on the rim,” Curry said. “We definitely had several possessions where we knew exactly what we wanted to get and we executed.

“That’ll continue to show itself as we go through the season with just our focus and just the clarity of what we want to accomplish down the stretch of games. Whether we make or miss shots, you live with that, but not turning the ball over and getting a lot of movement and not settling, that was big for us tonight.”

Kevin Durant, who scored a team-high 28 points, took note of the team’s work in the fourth quarter and came away feeling as if there is progress in an area that had been an issue in close games.

“Coach called some plays and we ran them to perfection and got some layups and got some stops as well,” he said. “It was definitely a different game, not having him out there, but we adjusted as the game went on.”

Though it may have been against Miami without LeBron James or Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh, this was no gimme. This is not a team that will be in the playoffs, but it brought intensity to everything it did Tuesday night.

And that’s enough for the Warriors to derive some healthy benefit.

Kings stumble after underestimating, disrespecting depleted Heat

Kings stumble after underestimating, disrespecting depleted Heat

SACRAMENTO -- Two teams playing on a second night of a back-to-back walked into Golden 1 Center Wednesday night. One team was playing to strengthen their playoff position after a huge win the night before. The other team was an undermanned 10-win team struggling to field an 8-man rotation.  

“A team that’s so decimated by injuries, I think we underestimated them,” veteran Garrett Temple said. “They got a lot of easy early on - a lot of easy 3’s. And when you give give a team hope, they are NBA players and they can play the game.”

The Sacramento Kings are running out of excuses for why they play down to their competition. The stunning 107-102 loss to the Miami Heat Wednesday was just another in a long list of winnable games this season that Sacramento let slip through its fingers.

What’s worse is that the Kings made a tremendous run, like they usually do. This time it was solely on the back of their second unit, who used a 19-0 run to erase a 19-point third quarter deficit. They even took a lead in the fourth quarter and then Dave Joerger turned back to a group of starters that had struggled mightily all night long.

With 8:23 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Kings leading 91-89, Joerger inserted DeMarcus Cousins and Matt Barnes into the game for Kosta Koufos and Anthony Tolliver. Four minutes later, Sacramento’s momentum was gone and they trailed 98-93.

Coach Dave Joerger gave his take during the post game interview.

“Fatigue, guys were out of gas - second night of a back-to-back,” Joerger said as to why he made the switch.

Whatever magic the Kings had captured quickly dissipated. It’s not an indictment on Cousins or Barnes, more on the flow of the game. Something was working and then it was gone.

Cousins was in no mood to talk to the media following the loss and neither were most of his teammates.

“No excuses,” Cousins said when asked whether fatigue played a role in the loss.

Temple took it a step further, completely destroying the notion that fatigue played a role.

“That’s B.S., if there was no camera, I’d use the whole word,” Temple said when asked about Joerger’s fatigue comment. “They were off a back-to-back as well. There was nothing about fatigue. Nobody plays 38 minutes a game on this team.”

“I don’t think we respected them early on and let them get hot and then it became a game,” Temple added.

A straight shooter, Temple played a huge role in the comeback. He finished the night with 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting and grabbed three steals in 31 minutes off the bench. He was part of a group that energized the team both in the first half and second half after sluggish starts by the first team.

“I’m very disappointed, the most disappointed I’ve been this season,” Temple said. “This is a game we have to win. After a big game in Denver to get that eight seed and then come in here against a decimated Miami Heat team that’s coming on a back-to-back as well - so that’s no excuse. This is a game we have to get. We’ve just got to get it. We can’t lose games like this. I just hope it doesn’t come back to bite us.”

Ty Lawson was a spark plug off the bench as well, scoring 15 points and handing out six assists in 29 minutes. Arron Afflalo had another solid game with the second group, scoring 15 points on 3-of-3 shooting from downtown. Tolliver chipped in 14 on 5-for-6 shooting.

The second unit scored a season-high 61 points and it could have been more.

With the loss, Sacramento fell to 15-20 on the season and wasted a valuable opportunity to go up two games on the Portland Trail Blazers, who lost to the Golden State Warriors.

The Kings return to the court Friday evening to face another injury depleted team in the Los Angeles Clippers before the schedule gets dramatically more difficult.

NBA Gameday: Kings vs Kings the matchup to watch against Heat

NBA Gameday: Kings vs Kings the matchup to watch against Heat

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings open a seven-game homestand Wednesday night against a completely depleted Miami Heat squad. Both teams are playing the second night of a back-to-back, but Miami had just eight healthy bodies in their 99-90 loss to the Suns on Tuesday night and they might not have any more than that against the Kings.

Sacramento is coming off an impressive road win in Denver. They used a team effort to come away with a 120-113 win, highlighted by season-high scoring performances from Darren Collison, Arron Afflalo and Kosta Koufos. With the win, the Kings hold a game lead over the Portland Trail Blazers for the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff race.

The Heat are struggling through their early schedule. They’ve lost six straight and 9-of-10 heading into Wednesday night’s matchup in Sacramento. Veteran point guard Goran Dragic is having a solid season, averaging 19 points and 6.8 assists, but he needs more help if the Heat have any chance of taking down the Kings at home.

OPENING LINE

Kings by 8.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Kings vs. Kings -- The Miami Heat have eight or nine healthy bodies coming into Tuesday night’s game. Regular starters Whiteside, Winslow and Waiters are out for sure, leaving Goran Dragic and possibly Tyler Johnson with a makeshift group. No excuses. Sacramento would have been favored over a healthy Heat team. If they lose this one, no more playoff talk for a month.    

WHERE THEY STAND

Kings: 15-19, third place in Pacific

Heat: 10-26, last place in Southeast

INJURY REPORT

Kings: PG Ty Lawson (fractured sinus/blurry vision) questionable, F Rudy Gay (hip flexor) questionable.

Heat: F Chris Bosh (blood clots) out, F Josh McRoberts (foot) out, Hassan Whiteside (eye) out, SF Justise Winslow (shoulder) out, SG Dion Waiters (groin) out, G Tyler Johnson (migraine) did not play Tuesday in Phoenix, F James Johnson (illness) did not play Tuesday in Phoenix.

SERIES HISTORY

Sacramento has lost five straight to the Heat, including a brutal 108-96 overtime stumble on Nov. 11 in Miami. The Heat hold a 39-17 advantage all-time over the Kings.  

QUOTE

“I’ll be the first one to say that we’re not a perfect team. We’re not a team that’s going to come out and blow out teams on a nightly basis, but we have to come and approach games the right way on a nightly basis. We got to grind it out, we’ve got to play together, we’ve got to defend at a high level all four quarters or games are going to be tough to win.” -DeMarcus Cousins following the Kings win over the Nuggets on Tuesday night