Everyone expected a tense Game 5 at Golden One Center between the Sacramento Kings and the Golden State Warriors. It made sense, considering that Harrison Barnes missed a game-winning attempt in Game 4 at Chase Center. Such a close defeat in front of a hostile crowd made the Kings believe that they were ready to preserve their home court advantage with a victory in Game 5.
However, the Warriors had other plans. They leaned on their championship experience and showed the Kings why they were the defending champions in the closing moments of Game 5. While the entirety of the game was a hard-fought affair with both teams holding a double digit lead at one point, it all boiled down to the final 95 seconds. That’s when the Warriors showed the young upstarts what it takes to win in the playoffs.
At that point in the game, the Kings had just scored and gotten within three points at 117-114 after Malik Monk drove right into the lane and dished the ball to Domantas Sabonis for a thunderous slam that got the home crowd roaring.
The following possession saw the Warriors turn it over thanks to a charge called on Kevon Looney, which was unsuccessfully challenged by Steve Kerr. With momentum swinging their way and a supportive crowd encouraging them, the Kings faltered and showed their lack of experience in big moments. With 1:11 left on the clock, Sacramento had the ball and instead of slowing it down when they had the Warriors in the penalty, Monk instead took a potential game-tying three.
Yes, it was an open shot, and Monk had started to score after having a bad start to the game, but that one decision ended up swinging the game. After that miss, Andrew Wiggins ended up in an isolation situation against rookie Keegan Murray and then hit a midrange turnaround to push the Warriors’ lead to 119-114.
With 47.8 seconds left on the clock and the game still within reach, De’Aaron Fox opted to take a quick and contested stepback three to cut the deficit and missed. Considering he had gone 2 of 9 at that point from beyond the arc while playing with a broken finger in his shooting hand, it’s inexplicable that Fox chose to take that shot when he had already missed all of his other shots in the fourth quarter. Instead of using his speed advantage to try to get a foul or a bucket in the paint, the Kings’ injured star opted to try to play hero ball and failed.
While Fox was the well-deserved winner of the inaugural Clutch Player of the Year award, he should have known better than to take that shot with the injury and what was going on in the game. His miss allowed Steph Curry to run down the clock and then take advantage of a defensive lapse to get the and-one that sealed the game.
Now, the Kings face the stark reality that they are likely to lose Game 6 at Chase Center. It’s not over yet, but the Warriors have now taken control of the series.