Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry Power Warriors Past Marvin Bagley III, Kings

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 22, 2019

OAKLAND, CA - FEBRUARY 21:  Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors handles the ball against the Sacramento Kings on February 21, 2019 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, 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 Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The Golden State Warriors returned from the NBA All-Star break with a 125-123 win over the Sacramento Kings on Thursday at Oracle Arena.

Buddy Hield turned down a deep three-point opportunity in the final seconds and opted instead to take a potential game-tying turnaround shot from mid-range. The shot missed as time expired to preserve the victory for Golden State.

Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry scored 28 and 36 points apiece.

Draymond Green stuffed the stat sheet (12 points, six rebounds, eight assists and one steal). DeMarcus Cousins continues to be an effective presence in a somewhat limited role, posting 17 points and 10 rebounds in 27 minutes on the floor.

The Warriors defense effectively took Hield, the Kings' leading scorer, out of the game until late in the fourth quarter. Hield had 19 points on 8-of-19 shooting. Rookie forward Marvin Bagley III added 28 points and 14 rebounds in the defeat.

      

DeMarcus Cousins' Defense Will Present Issues for Warriors in Playoffs

Cousins has seamlessly fit into Golden State's offense, confirming the fears of many fans when they saw the Warriors signed the four-time All-Star center. Cousins is now averaging 14.2 points and 7.1 rebounds while shooting 43.1 percent in 12 games with the team.

The Kings did, however, show his defense continues to be a problem.

Even before his Achilles injury, Cousins wasn't a great defender. Now, he's a step slower, which could be a permanent consequence of his injury or simply the result of missing nearly a full year of game action. Either way, Sacramento had success attacking Cousins off the dribble.

The Kings also targeted Cousins in the pick-and-roll.

Of course, Cousins is a net positive for the Warriors when he's on the court because he's still a great scorer and rebounder. Golden State is probably going to roll to a fourth title in five years as well.

Cousins' defense might be one of the few weak spots on a team that's largely invulnerable. though. Coaches have more time to exploit an opponent's shortcomings in the playoffs. Much in the same way the Cleveland Cavaliers targeted Festus Ezeli and Anderson Varejao in the 2016 Finals, teams will look to make Cousins work as hard as possible on the defensive end.

The Warriors are too good to think that will be enough to ruin their championship hopes, but it will give head coach Steve Kerr one more thing to worry about when he starts visualizing his postseason rotations.

      

Marvin Bagley III Justifying Kings' Investment on Draft Night

With the second overall pick of the 2018 draft, the Kings selected Bagley rather than taking Luka Doncic. The move looked puzzling on draft night because Sacramento already had a glut of frontcourt players and desperately needed another young playmaker.

In retrospect, passing on Doncic and targeting Bagley instead is defensible.

De'Aaron Fox is enjoying a breakout season, while Hield's three-point shooting has been instrumental to the Kings' success. Fox in particular may not be so productive if he had to share the load with Doncic. The Dallas Mavericks shipped out Dennis Smith Jr. after Smith struggled to adapt to Doncic's presence.

Granted, that context is likely to be lost to history in the years after the 2018 draft.

Bagley is at least doing his best to show Sacramento made the right call, and he's steadily improving over the course of his rookie season. In seven games this month, he's averaging 17.4 points and 9.4 rebounds.

His big night Thursday came despite Durant shadowing him for much of the time they shared the floor together.

The Kings have been one of the NBA's biggest surprises, and Bagley is one reason for their success. Bagley's continued improvement could help propel Sacramento—now 1.5 games behind the Clippers for the eighth seed—to the playoffs. 

     

What's Next?

The Warriors will shift their focus to their highly anticipated matchup with the Houston Rockets on Saturday in the Bay Area. The Kings stay on the road Saturday for a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

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