The Sacramento Kings 2023 NBA Playoffs matchup with the Golden State Warriors might be the most intriguing series in the entire first round. Ahead of the Kings-Warriors series, we’ll be making our Kings NBA playoff predictions.
The Kings are the decided underdogs in the first round of the 2023 NBA playoffs, even though they are the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference and have home-court advantage. Sacramento finished four games ahead of Golden State in the regular-season standings. The Warriors are still the defending champions, led by reigning NBA Finals MVP Stephen Curry. The Kings are in the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
Prior to clinching a postseason berth, the Kings’ playoff drought was the longest in NBA history. It was also the longest active playoff drought among all professional sports teams in North America. Given that Sacramento hasn’t played a single postseason game while Golden State has won four championships in the last eight years, it’s easy to see why the Warriors are expected to eliminate the Kings.
Sacramento was the better team in the regular season. There were signs over the course of 82 games that the Warriors could be headed for a quick postseason exit. Let’s take a look at our Kings playoff predictions.
3. Sacramento Kings will average at least 125 points per game
The Kings didn’t simply lead the NBA in offensive rating during the regular season. Sacramento finished with the best offensive rating in league history. The Kings averaged 118.6 points per 100 possessions. The Boston Celtics ranked second. The gap between Sacramento and Boston was greater than the distance between the Celtics and the Denver Nuggets, which had the No. 5 offensive efficiency.
If the Kings were facing one of the Warriors’ championship teams, Sacramento’s offense might come back to earth in the playoffs. The 2023 Warriors, however, don’t play defense like the recent Golden State squads that won the West. After ranking second in defensive rating en route to winning the 2022 title, the Warriors plummeted to 14th this season. On the road, Golden State had an abysmal 118.3 defensive rating. Only the tanking San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets had a worse defense away from home.
Sacramento scored 120.7 points per game in the regular season. Golden State played at the fastest pace in the entire league. Even if the Warriors’ defense improves now that the games are more important and the starting lineup is healthy, the Kings are going to put up plenty of points.
2. Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox will outscore Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry
Curry is the best player in the series, so it will come as a surprise to many if he doesn’t end up being the leading scorer for both teams. Curry averaged 29.4 points per game in the regular season. De’Aaron Fox scored 25.0 points per game. Despite failing to even make one-third of his 3-point attempts, Fox was still an efficient scorer. The Kings’ point guard made 51.2% of his field-goal attempts.
The Warriors had trouble slowing down Fox in the regular season. Fox’s scoring numbers against the Warriors were nearly identical to his season averages. Curry was brilliant against the Kings, averaging 33.0 points in four matchups, but he could fall well short of that number in the first round. Curry didn’t average better than 28.0 points per game in any of the three West playoff series last year. The greatest shooter of all time only averaged 23.8 points per game in the conference finals.
Fox’s playoff resume is currently blank. He’ll be making his postseason debut against the Warriors. With its fast pace and weak perimeter defense, Golden State might be the perfect opponent for Fox to face in his first-ever playoff series.
1. Sacramento Kings will beat Golden State Warriors in seven games
Maybe the Warriors will flip a switch in the playoffs and return to looking like the team that has made six NBA Finals appearances in eight years. But there has been enough evidence to suggest that this Golden State team simply isn’t good enough. The Warriors’ home-road splits, in particular, should make the Kings believe that they can upset the defending champs.
Golden State didn’t simply struggle on the road. When the Warriors played away from Chase Center, they were one of the worst teams in basketball. The Warriors were even worse on the road than their 11-30 record indicates. Golden State won in Sacramento in the second-to-last game of the season, but only because the Kings rested Fox and Domantas Sabonis in a game that meant nothing for Sacramento. The Kings don’t have the same issue. Sacramento led the West with a 25-16 road record.
After 16 years of no home playoff games, you can be sure that Kings fans will make Golden 1 Center an extremely difficult place for the Warriors and any other opponent to play in the playoffs. Curry is the best player in the series, but Fox and Sabonis give Sacramento the second and third-best players in the matchup. The Kings will take care of business at home and eliminate the Warriors before the second round of the 2023 NBA Playoffs.