There are plenty of reasons to devalue the Sacramento Kings' shocking win over the Golden State Warriors on Monday evening. No Steph, no KD. The duo has plenty of hardware and both are headed to the Hall of Fame when their sneaker-wearing days are over.
But the Warriors still started two All-Stars and 60 percent of their starting lineup. They also used nine players from their championship team from last season.
It's a very good win in a hostile environment, whether the Warriors were at full strength or partial strength. If you need any more assurances, Vegas had Golden State as a 14.5 point favorite coming into the night.
"I think it's good confidence, it's a good opportunity for us," head coach Dave Joerger said. "They don't lose in here very often, no matter what."
20 games into the 2017-18 season, the Sacramento Kings are beginning to figure things out. They've been in plenty of contests, including Saturday's two-point loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. At 6-14, they are still near bottom of the Western Conference, but the season is young and so are the Kings.
"I think today, out of all the games, I think guys trusted one another," George Hill said. "We had a lot of games where we were kind of playing, not selfish, but taking some tough looks. I think today we're working together, talking more, had a little bit more pop to their game."
Joerger pushed a lot of the right buttons. Skal Labissiere started the game with seven points and two blocks in the opening minutes to jump start the first unit.
Buddy Hield came off the bench in the first quarter to drill his first two baskets, helping the Kings even the score after 12 minutes of play.
In the second quarter, it was Garrett Temple and Bogdan Bogdanovic who came through with clutch shots to keep the Kings in the ballgame. After trailing by 10 with 4:36 remaining in the half, Sacramento closed out the quarter strong and trailed by just two at the intermission.
The third quarter was all George Hill. The veteran point guard dropped in 13 of his 16 points in the period, hitting 5-for-5 from the field, including all three of his 3-point attempts.
"He made some shots and we did a good job of finding him," Joerger said following the win. "I played him the whole quarter and actually two minutes into the fourth quarter."
The Kings finished the third on a 9-0 run, including two huge baskets from 40-year-old Vince Carter.
Sacramento opened the fourth with a one point lead, and pushed it five with an alley-oop dunk by Willie Cauley-Stein. That was just the beginning for Cauley-Stein. The third-year big took over in the fourth, scoring 10 of his 19 points in the final frame. He stuffed the stat sheet with eight rebounds, six assists, two blocks and a steal in 29 minutes of play.
Cauley-Stein made the highlight reel, but it was a pair of rookies that put the Kings over the top. Generously listed at 6-foot tall, Frank Mason attacked his much taller counterpart, Shaun Livingston. Mason posted nine of his 14 points in the fourth as Joerger stuck with the former NCAA player of the year.
With so many Kings coming up big, it was Bogdanovic who stole the show late. With the shot clock winding down and the game tied at 106-106, the 25-year-old Serb went at Draymond Green, the NBA's reigning Defensive Player of the Year. His six-footer off the glass gave Sacramento an improbable late game lead.
Bogdanovic ripped down the rebound off a Klay Thompson miss with 2.4 seconds remaining and iced the game at the line with a pair of free throws.
"We played well as a team, we put together a 48 minutes game and it was great for Bogi to close it out like that and for us to get a stop," De'Aaron Fox told reporters after the game.
Thompson finished with a game-high 21 points for the Warriors, but Temple held him to just 7-of-21 shooting from the field.
The Sacramento Kings don't have four current All-Stars level players on their roster. Whether Curry and Durant played or not, the Warriors still have a seasoned roster filled with stars. If the Kings are going to win games, it has to be as a collective.
Monday night at Oracle, Sacramento showed flashes of what the future might look like. The trick now is to repeat the same effort and intensity for another 60-plus games.