Warriors Ready for a Real Rivalry


As the 2023 NBA regular season was reaching its final days, the possibility for a first-round matchup between the Kings and the Warriors was getting more realistic.

The Kings rested some of their most important players in De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis, Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk in the second-to-last game of the season against the Warriors, which gave them an easy path to the sixth seed.

This series has a chance to be the most memorable and dramatic of all the other first-round matchups. The potential storylines and results coming out of this matchup are tantalizing. From having no past history in the playoffs between these two teams to familiar faces on both sides, it is sure to be an intense battle.

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A Real Rivalry is Born

The Kings and the Warriors have never met in the playoffs, let alone been in the postseason at the same time.

The Kings held the longest playoff drought in the four major American sports leagues until making the playoffs this year. Their last playoff appearance was in 2006, where they lost in the first round against the San Antonio Spurs. What better welcome back to the playoffs is there than to face the defending champs, led by the trio that has the most wins in NBA Finals history?

The “big brother-little brother” type of relationship between these two teams is strong, especially considering the past decade. The Warriors’ relevancy started during their first-round upset over the Denver Nuggets in 2013. The Kings have been struggling to build a competent team during this dynastic run by their NorCal rival.

This series marks the start of a new era of basketball between these two franchises.

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Friends Turned into Foes

Some of the more prominent figures in this series are all familiar faces to both organizations.

The Kings’ co-owner and chairman Vivek Ranadivé used to be a co-owner for the Warriors. Ranadivé and current Warriors’ owner Joe Lacob both gained ownership of Golden State in 2010. Since then, Lacob has presented four championship banners in Chase Center, while Ranadivé is getting his first taste of a playoff crowd in Golden 1 Center.

The Kings owner has been searching for his version of Stephen Curry, a franchise superstar that catapults his team to new heights. He even made a bold claim about Buddy Hield when Sacramento acquired him in 2017. Ranadivé reportedly said that Hield has “Steph Curry potential” when the trade went down.

Kings head coach Mike Brown was an assistant coach for the Warriors for the past six seasons. His familiarity with Warriors personnel from last year’s championship team will play a critical factor in this series. He is the one person for the Kings that has extensive experience working alongside Golden State’s leaders like Steve Kerr, Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. Brown’s knowledge of how the Warriors operate can create a positive advantage for the Kings.

For the players, Kings forward Harrison Barnes was the Warriors’ lottery pick in 2012. He was the first pick for a historic draft class by the Warriors, which included Draymond and Festus Ezeli. Barnes was the small forward for the Warriors’ title season in 2015 and their 73-9 season in 2016.

His final moments with the Warriors are soured because he played poorly to close the 2016 NBA Finals. Warriors fans speculate that it was he who Green is referring to in the clip below. Barnes ended up getting replaced by Kevin Durant, and the Warriors turned into an all-time hated juggernaut.

You have to wonder how the mild-mannered Barnes feels about having a chance to beat the Warriors in the playoffs.

Warriors guard Donte DiVincenzo was traded to the Kings last season, while recovering from a torn ligament in his ankle during that time. At the end of the 2022 campaign, he reportedly felt disgruntled with how the Kings limited his playing time. He and his representation felt as though the Kings did that in order to tank his value in free agency. He has become an important and reliable rotation player for the Warriors, while shooting almost 40% from three.

What’s At Stake + Predictions

Green and Klay Thompson have mentioned to the media that they prefer to play Sacramento. They both claim the travel is the best part about having to play the Kings in the first round.

Objectively, they are correct, and it’s true that a bus ride is better than a plane ride to Dallas or Memphis. But the Warriors should feel confident to be playing a team that has not played in the same amount of high-pressure games as them. The Kings have been in regular-season nail baiters, like the game against the Clippers in February.

But there is nothing in the regular season that can simulate the pressure of the playoffs. With all of that experience, however, the Warriors should not underestimate the Kings in this series. If they do, they will find themselves in a tough situation in front of a presumably hostile Sacramento crowd.

The goal for the Warriors should be to take care of business as quickly as possible. This Kings team has had an amazing season, but the Warriors’ core has overcome more talented teams before. Even if this year’s team has been mostly disappointing, it seems they are peaking at the right time. Andrew Wiggins is expected to play, and Gary Payton II is back playing at a high level. Wiggins reportedly looked “really good” in their scrimmages this week.

They have one of the best pairings in NBA history with Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. They have all of the playoff experience and know how to adjust from game to game.

If this Kings team is the first team to beat the Warriors in a Western Conference playoff series during the Steve Kerr era, then there will be questions about the core moving forward.

But that will not be the case this time around. Warriors in 6.

About Christian Oblena

Born in San Francisco, raised in the East Bay, lifelong Bay Area sports fan. Here to give my own opinions on everything Dubs.

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