PHOENIX SUNS

Curry scores playoff career-high 50 as Warriors down Kings

Apr 30, 2023, 4:02 PM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry scored a playoff career-high 50 points and answered time and again to will the defending champions on in their quest for a repeat, Kevon Looney grabbed 21 rebounds, and the Golden State Warriors advanced to the Western Conference semifinals by beating the Sacramento Kings 120-100 in Sunday’s winner-take-all Game 7.

Curry’s points are the most in NBA history in a Game 7, topping former teammate Kevin Durant’s 48 for the Nets against Milwaukee in 2021.

The Warriors fell behind 2-0 in this series then won twice on the road in front of a hostile, cowbell-clanging crowd in the state capital to become the first reigning champion to drop the first two games and win any postseason series.

Now, bring on LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals with all that NBA Finals history with James and Golden State dating to his Cleveland days. Game 1 is Tuesday night at Chase Center.

Sacramento’s special comeback season is over long before these young Kings had planned. After snapping a 16-year playoff drought — longest in NBA history — under Coach of the Year Mike Brown, playoff-starved Sacramento earned a No. 3 seed but missed advancing to the second round for the first time since 2004. No more Light the Beam at Golden 1 Center this season.

Curry shot 20 of 38 with seven 3s and delivered after almost every big play by Sacramento as Splash Brother Klay Thompson struggled on both ends again. But Thompson came through in some crucial moments, too.

Malik Monk’s putback and three-point play with 14.6 seconds remaining in the third pulled Sacramento within six only for Thompson to hit a long 3 and convert a four-point play to make it 91-81 heading into the final 12 minutes.

Domantas Sabonis had 22 points, eight rebounds and seven assists but the Warriors held De’Aaron Fox in check as he scored 16 points on 5-for-19 shooting in his third game playing with a broken index finger on his shooting hand.

Trailing 58-56 at halftime, the Warriors opened the second half with a 13-4 burst to take a 69-62 lead and force a Kings timeout at the 7:50 mark.

Sacramento scored early on with a beautiful combination of classic give-and-goes and long jumpers off crisp passing around the perimeter.

But Curry kept coming, and Looney kept scrapping to create second and third opportunities during his brilliant series on the boards.

Curry fired from way back with precision and fearlessly drove to the basket with jaw-dropping acrobatics all afternoon to send Kings fans to the exits late in the fourth.

Thompson began 1 for 10 missing his first five 3s before connecting at the 9:18 mark of the third. Golden State, playing just its fourth Game 7 under Steve Kerr since the 2014-15 title run, was smart down the stretch after 18 turnovers in Game 6 led to 23 Kings points and Kerr calling his team “wildly undisciplined.”

Kerr had no doubt before the deciding game — and he went back to Draymond Green in the starting lineup for Game 7 with the season on the line after the fiery forward came off the bench the previous two contests following a Game 3 suspension for stepping on Domantas Sabonis.

“These guys are champions, defending champions from a year ago, four in the last eight years, these guys know the deal,” Kerr said. “There’s a sense of confidence and a sense that we’re going to go get it done.”

Just before the final buzzer, Kerr offered a long embrace to Brown — Golden State’s former top assistant who once coached the Warriors during Kerr’s health absence and just guided the Kings’ remarkable turnaround.

LOONEY ON THE BOARDS

Looney wound up with 106 rebounds in the series — 37 on the offensive glass. This was his fifth straight playoff game with double-digit rebounds.

In the final five games of the series, Looney had 90 rebounds and 34 on the offensive end with 27 assists.

COMEBACK TIME

Since all rounds became best-of-seven in 2003, the other two teams coming off titles that fell behind 2-0 were each swept — the Heat losing to the Bulls in 2007 and and the Mavericks falling to the Thunder in 2012.

TIP-INS

Kings: The Kings outrebounded Golden State 28-22 in the first half. … After Sacramento’s bench outscored the Warriors 52-21 in Game 6, the reserves again came through — 25-8 in the first half and 41-18 overall.

Warriors: Curry missed consecutive free throws in the second and Thompson couldn’t convert a pair early in the third. Golden State went 19 of 30 from the line after missing 10 free throws in Game 6 (25 of 35). … Gary Payton II blocked four shots. … The Warriors improved to 3-1 in Game 7s since 2015. Golden State hadn’t been to Game 7 since May 28, 2018, at Houston in the Western Conference Finals. The Warriors won to reach their fourth straight finals on the way to a repeat championship. … Golden State improved to 19-0 in playoff series against West opponents under Kerr.

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