OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Jason Richardson figured the Golden State Warriors had blown it. Their 14-point lead over the Sacramento Kings had shrunk to two, and reliable Mike Bibby was at the free throw line.
When Bibby missed both shots, Richardson wondered if something big had changed for his long-struggling franchise.
“In the past, we’d never get a break like that,” he said. “Never.”
Richardson scored 25 points, and Nick Van Exel hit a running shot in the lane with 18.8 seconds left to help the Warriors snap a 15-game losing streak against Sacramento with a 98-91 victory Friday night.
Van Exel scored five points in the final moments as the Warriors barely held on for an impressive sweep of the NBA’s top two teams. Golden State beat the Lakers 107-98 on Tuesday night before harassing the Kings into a rare night of poor shooting—and then holding on against Sacramento’s last-ditch rally.
If the Warriors end their nine-year playoff drought this season, they might look back at a four-day stretch in December as the turning point. Mike Dunleavy scored 18 points as Golden State recorded its most exciting back-to-back wins in years.
The Warriors improved to 14-13 overall, including 10-5 at home. The perennial losers haven’t been over .500 this late in the season since December 1993.
“It has been a mental thing in the past,” said Troy Murphy, who had season highs of 15 points and 14 rebounds. “They are the closest team to us, and they’ve beaten us 15 times in a row. It has been a big mental barrier for us to get through, because we want to beat them worse than any other team in the league.”
The Warriors surprised the Kings with physical defense, shoving Sacramento’s sharpshooters out of position and controlling the paint. They moved ahead in the third quarter and nearly turned the game into a blowout.
The Kings trailed 93-79 with 4:01 left—but they made a 12-0 run keyed by seven points from Bibby, who finished with 28. Bibby is an 83 percent foul shooter, but he missed two free throws with 51 seconds left, and Peja Stojakovic missed an open jumper.
Van Exel then drove past three defenders and hooked in an awkward shot for Golden State’s second field goal of the fourth quarter. Van Exel added three free throws in the final 11 seconds as Golden State hung on for its first win over Sacramento since Dec. 20, 1999.
Stojakovic returned from a one-game suspension to score 16 points for the Kings, who lost their second game in two days after a 16-2 stretch that began in late November. Sacramento had one of its worst shooting games of the season and played even worse defense while wasting a chance to claim the NBA’s best record.
After losing to Dallas on Thursday while Stojakovic was suspended for bumping an official, Sacramento struggled against Golden State and dropped to 20-8—a half-game behind the Lakers in the Pacific Division.
Bibby had his second straight outstanding game after scoring 23 points against the Mavericks, but he was in a foul mood after missing his foul shots.
“I couldn’t believe I missed one. I missed both,” he said. “The big thing is that we have two L’s on those games.”
Bibby then abruptly walked away from reporters at his locker.
Stojakovic, the NBA’s third-leading scorer, was tentative and ineffective for most of the game. His teammates weren’t much better, with Bobby Jackson enduring his second straight horrible shooting performance (3-for-11) and Brad Miller battling more foul trouble.
Miller got just six shots and didn’t have an assist in the Kings’ third game in four days. Sacramento, the NBA’s highest-scoring team, was held under 100 points for the first time in 16 games.
Golden State still seemed energized from its victory over the Lakers— although for the second straight game in Oakland the road team was loudly cheered. The Lakers had a huge rooting section, and the Kings always travel the90 miles to the Arena with several thousand fans.
Erick Dampier, who had eight points and nine rebounds, is the only player on the Warriors’ active roster who was with the team for its last win over Sacramento. … Jackson appeared to hit a leaning jumper as time expired in the third quarter, but officials waved it off, then upheld their call after a video review. … While Stojakovic was sitting at home on Thursday, he got a phone call during halftime from someone claiming to be a reporter from NBC. Stojakovic knew something was fishy, since the caller had a Serbian accent. Itwas Vlade Divac.