SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP)—The Golden State Warriors have spent eight seasons on the unpleasant end of a one-sided rivalry with the Sacramento Kings, who racked up playoff glory while their coastal rivals only stacked up losing records.
The balance of NBA power in Northern California has shifted to the Bay this spring—and the Warriors cemented their spot on top with another win in a playoff chase that’s coming down to its final days.
The new NorCal pecking order was most obvious in the stands at Arco Arena, where hundreds of jubilant Warriors fans infiltrated the 352nd consecutive sellout crowd. For years, Golden State has endured twice-yearly invasions of its Oakland arena by screaming Kings supporters who couldn’t get a seat in Sacramento.
“I’ve been playing here, coming here (for years), and I’ve never heard an opposing crowd that loud,” said Matt Barnes, a Sacramento native and former Kings forward who joined the Warriors this season. “It was unbelievable. We’ve got to thank our fans. They really stepped up and came through for us.”
Jason Richardson and Barnes scored 17 points apiece as the Warriors (39-40) remained tied with the Los Angeles Clippers for eighth place in the Western Conference standings. Both clubs also could catch the slumping seventh-place Lakers (40-40).
“We’ll probably have to win out to have a chance,” Warriors coach Don Nelson said. “This was the first step, and we’ve got three more steps to go.”
The Clippers, who beat Portland 107-89, probably will hold the tiebreaker edge for the final playoff spot, but the Warriors are peaking with 13 wins in their last 18 games, including six of seven. And Golden State’s 39 wins are the franchise’s best total during its 12 straight seasons out of the playoffs.
The Warriors took a 21-point lead during their 74-point first half before opening the fourth quarter with an 18-4 run to win the season series with the Kings.
“Tonight, we fought,” Davis said. “We fought with each other, and sometimes you need that. Everybody has to know there’s a sense of urgency. We get into each other, but at the same time, we’re picking each other up.”
Shareef Abdur-Rahim had 24 points and a season-high 13 rebounds for the Kings, who lost for the 15th time in 19 games. Sacramento faces all four contenders for the West’s final two playoff spots in its last four games, but failed in its first attempt to be a spoiler.
Kevin Martin scored 18 points for Sacramento, and Francisco Garcia had 16 points and seven rebounds. The Kings have perhaps the NBA’s most unconditionally loyal fans, so the pro-Warriors chants and cheers were bizarre to the players.
“I don’t know how other people felt, but it hurt me,” Garcia said.
Golden State, which won on the road for just the 11th time all season, hasn’t made the playoffs since 1994—also the last time the Warriors finished with a winning record. Sacramento is finishing up its first losing season since 1998.
The Warriors realize they don’t completely control their chance to end the franchise’s 12-year absence from the playoffs, given the Clippers’ tiebreaker edge. But they’re having more fun than any Golden State club since Nelson’s last playoff team—and their weekend plans include a home game against Minnesota on Sunday, followed by an elaborate birthday bash for Davis.
“They were playing like they’re hungry to make the playoffs,” John Salmons said. “They beat us pretty good in the second and fourth quarters. That’s one weakness we’ve had all year—closing out our halves in games.”
Ron Artest came off the bench for Sacramento for the first time since Dec. 1, with Salmons and Garcia replacing Artest and Brad Miller in the Kings’ usual lineup. Artest has a sore hamstring, and Miller was a last-minute scratch with a nagging foot injury.
Golden State closed the first half on a 16-6 run that included six points from Davis, who hit a difficult jumper in the final second. Sacramento trimmed Golden State’s 21-point lead to five late in the third quarter, but Davis hit two 3-pointers and Al Harrington added five points to open the fourth.
Warriors assistant coach Keith Smart left the team Friday to attend to undisclosed family business. He’s expected to return after Golden State’s home game against Minnesota on Sunday. … Kings G Ronnie Price left the game in the final minute after a nasty collision under the basket. Price needed stitches over his left eye. … Kings F Corliss Williamson sat out for the seventh time in eight games with a sore heel. … Davis’ party at a swank downtown San Francisco nightspot will be hosted by rapper/actor Mos Def.