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Kings set to end playoff drought by taking on Warriors

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings have spent nearly four decades as California neighbors having never played a game with high significance.
Sacramento Kings forward Domantas Sabonis, front, pulls in a rebound as Denver Nuggets center DeAndre Jordan defends in the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, April 9, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings have spent nearly four decades as California neighbors having never played a game with high significance.

The two franchises separated by less than 100 miles never even made the NBA playoffs in the same season since the Kings arrived in California in 1985, much less met in the playoffs.

Now with the Kings having ended the longest playoff drought in NBA history, the teams will meet in a first-round series beginning Saturday in success-starved Sacramento that has the potential to fuel a rivalry.

“I’m not sure if it’s a rivalry yet. If it can end up being that, then fantastic,” Kings coach Mike Brown said. “I think rivalries are great in any competition out there. It adds extra juice to the whole environment or atmosphere whenever two teams play each other. ... I wouldn’t say it’s quite there yet, but if it does get there, it’d be awesome.”

Brown has done his part to make it possible, having left his job as lead assistant on the champion Warriors to take over the Kings this season.

He helped transform a franchise that had gone an NBA-record 16 straight seasons without a playoff berth in a league in which more than half the teams make the postseason, turning the Kings into division champions behind a fast-paced offense led by the dynamic duo of De'Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis.

“Everybody expects them to be back in the Finals,” Brown said. “Nobody has picked us. Nobody even picked us to finish in a playoff spot, which is fine. We can’t change people’s minds by telling them, ‘Hey, we’re better than that.’ We got to go out and we got to change people’s minds by our play."

Despite winning four more games than Golden State and being far more consistent throughout the regular season, the Kings head into the playoffs as decided underdogs against the defending champions.

But the Warriors are wary of facing a team that's coming into a series on such an emotional high and playing in front of fans who have waited years for this chance.

“There’s confidence and excitement for them because they’re doing something that hasn’t been done in their franchise in a long time and they’ve invested a lot into that journey,” Warriors star Stephen Curry said. “But we all know playoffs are different and again you’ve just got to win four games however you can.”


Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins is set to make his return to the court in Game 1. Wiggins, who was away from the team for more than seven weeks dealing with a family matter, rejoined the team April 5 and hasn’t played since Feb. 13.

Wiggins scrimmaged this week and coach Steve Kerr is confident in his ability to get back into form soon.

“Wiggs is one of those guys, a little bit like Andre Iguodala, just doesn’t seem to ever fall out of shape," Kerr said.


There’s a huge discrepancy in experience with the Warriors having several key players who have been part of four championship teams.

The players on Golden State’s roster have 817 career playoff games compared to 185 for the Kings — with 52 of those coming from injured backup guard Matthew Dellavedova.

Former Warriors forward Harrison Barnes and Kevin Huerter are the only Kings players expected to play in the series who have played a key role in any playoff series win in their careers.


The Warriors got to the playoffs despite an 11-30 road record that was the worst for any playoff team since the 1991-92 season.

The Kings were the rare team that was better on the road than at home despite rabid fan support, winning two more road games than home ones.

Sacramento has often lacked the same defensive intensity at home as on the road but the Kings are excited for the chance to play in front of their own fans.

“I don’t even know what to expect but it will be special," Sabonis said.

The Warriors come into the series having won at least one road game in an NBA-record 27 straight playoff series.


When the game goes down to the wire, no one has been more prolific this season than Fox.

The speedy guard led the NBA with 194 clutch points — any time in the final five minutes of regulation or OT when the game is within five points — for the most in a season since LeBron James had 197 five years ago.

Fox won four games with a score in the final second.


AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this report


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Josh Dubow, The Associated Press

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