The Golden State Warriors did not have one of the best title-defending regular seasons ever. They were excellent as per usual at home, as they played like their championship-winning selves in the friendly confines of Chase Center, but they seemed to forget how to play basketball away from San Francisco. Throughout the 2022-23 campaign, the Warriors only won 11 games on the road, which could be troublesome since it's highly unlikely for them to have homecourt advantage in any potential series.
Even then, there's not a single chance that any fan or pundit in their right minds will count out the Warriors. Led by Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, there's a reason why the Dubs, despite being one of the most poorly-ran franchises from the 1980s to the late 2000s, have now become one of the most accomplished teams in the NBA.
Winning four championships in the span of 10 years (the Warriors' big three has been together for a decade) is no joke. Through the years, the Warriors have shown the ability to ratchet up their play under the bright lights of the playoffs, and there's no reason not to expect a veteran crew to reign supreme against a talented yet inexperienced Sacramento Kings team.
However, despite being favorites to take the series as the sixth-seed, the Kings are no pushovers. Winning at Golden1 Center, in front of a fanbase that's waited 17 long years to cheer a playoff team, will be a tall order.
But the Warriors have the requisite star power and mettle to take home at least one game on the road, which will be the minimum requirement for them to take the series. Can they do so in Game 1 tomorrow night at 8:30 PM E.T.?
Here are three bold predictions for how the Warriors' 2023 playoff debut against the Kings would turn out.
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3. Jordan Poole comes alive
The Warriors certainly expected a lot more out of Jordan Poole when they extended him to a four-year, $140 million extension. A player whose skillset makes him such an ideal fit in the modern NBA, Poole wasn't really able to build upon his breakout 2021-22 season. Despite averaging more points per game, he did so on worse efficiency and he's had a penchant for boneheaded decision-making when handling the basketball.
But Poole, of course, has performed well at the biggest stage before. He played a huge part in the Warriors' 2022 championship run, averaging 17 points on 51 percent shooting from the field. Poole had his moments, especially during their first round matchup against the Denver Nuggets last season, of scalding-hot shooting.
And with the Kings not exactly being the best defensive team in the NBA, Poole should have ample opportunity to run riot. Of course, his most recent outing against the Kings was an all-out nightmare (0-10 from the field). But for the Dubs to keep up with the Kings' league-leading offense, Poole will need to show up big time. And he will.
2. Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins combine to outrebound Domantas Sabonis
This is a series where Andrew Wiggins' return should play a huge role. Wiggins' 3-and-D skillset is vital, of course, to the Warriors' chances of winning. But one underrated part of Wiggins' game is his rebounding, and his return should help the Dubs compete on the boards, specifically against Domantas Sabonis, the league's leading rebounder.
Head coach Steve Kerr could always go to Kevon Looney if the Warriors end up hemorrhaging offensive rebounds to Sabonis. Sabonis had 22 rebounds against the Warriors back on November 13, so he will get his no matter what. However, it's imperative for the Warriors to limit the damage the Lithuanian center inflicts on the offensive glass, especially when the Kings' offense is tough enough to stop as it is.
Draymond Green will also play a huge part in limiting Sabonis. Kerr loves his small-ball lineups with Green at the five, so Green and Wiggins will have to lead the charge when it comes to the team's efforts in gang rebounding.
1. Steph Curry will hit 8+ threes and finish with 35+ points in a Game 1 victory
The Kings have the worst defense among all 16 teams that made the playoffs; it's a testament to how well they score the basketball that leaking points as badly as they do hasn't cost them as much as it could have.
But in the playoffs, this weakness of theirs may come back to haunt them. Unlike other playoff teams, the Kings don't really have a lockdown defender at the point-of-attack. Davion Mitchell, perhaps, comes closest. But Mitchell is a backup who averaged 18.1 minutes per game. Those minutes could fall even further in the postseason.
Thus, the stage will be set for a Steph Curry explosion in Game 1 of what should be a high-octane Warriors-Kings series. Curry has already put the Kings defense to the sword this season; back on November 7, Curry dropped 47 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists on 17-24 shooting from the field (7-12 from three). He hasn't scored less than 25 points or shot less than 50 percent from the field against the Kings yet this season.
Expect the greatest shooter of all time to set off the fireworks as the Warriors take home a much-needed Game 1 victory in front of a raucous, sold-out crowd at Golden1 Center.