SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — De’Aaron Fox scored 38 points in his long-awaited playoff debut and the Sacramento Kings celebrated their return to the postseason after a record 16-year drought by beating the defending-champion Golden State Warriors 126-123 on Saturday night.
The first playoff meeting between the Northern California neighbors lived up to the hype and delighted the raucous crowd that had been waiting for a playoff game since 2006.
The inexperienced Kings closed the game strong against a Warriors team that won four titles in the previous eight seasons.
After Stephen Curry hit a corner 3-pointer to give Golden State a 114-112 lead with about four minutes left, the Kings responded with seven in a row starting with a 3-pointer from Fox, who led the league in clutch points in the regular season.
The Warriors didn’t go away and cut the deficit to one on a layup by Curry in the final minute. But Andrew Wiggins missed a corner 3 for the lead in the closing seconds of his first game in more than two months.
Malik Monk made two free throws to make it 126-123 with 2.9 seconds left. Curry missed a runner from 3 at the buzzer, giving the Kings their first playoff win since April 30, 2006, against San Antonio.
Monk finished with 32 points off the bench and Domantas Sabonis had 12 points and 16 rebounds.
Curry led the Warriors with 30 points, Klay Thompson added 21 and Wiggins and Poole scored 18 apiece.
It was a festive environment in success-starved Sacramento where fans gathered outside the arena hours before the start of the Kings first playoff game following an NBA record 16-year drought.
The arena was deafening starting in pregame warmups with some fans even bringing back the cow bells that were so common during their playoff runs two decades ago.
The excitement appeared to take a toll on the inexperienced Kings, who struggled shooting the ball early. Sacramento missed its first seven 3-pointers, shot just 39.2% in the first half and trailed Golden State 61-55 at the half.
The Warriors built the lead to 10 points in the third quarter before Sacramento ended the quarter on a 15-4 run fueled by 10 points from Trey Lyles to take a 91-90 lead into the fourth.
Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins showed few signs of rush in his first game in more than two months after leaving the team to deal with an undisclosed family matter.
Wiggins came off the bench after starting his first 657 games in the NBA and made an immediate impact. He had his first shot attempt blocked but hustled back for a block of his own on the defensive end.
The only thing missing from his game was the outside shot as he was 1 for 8 from 3.
Warriors: Golden State opened a series on the road for the fourth time in 25 playoff series under Steve Kerr. The Warriors won Game 1 and the series in the 2018 Western Conference Finals against Houston and the second round against Memphis last season. Golden State lost the opener of the 2019 Finals and the series to Toronto.
Kings: Monk’s 15 points in the second quarter were the most for a Sacramento reserve in one quarter of a playoff game since at least 1997. ... Sacramento starters missed their first 15 attempts from 3-point range before Fox hit one late in the third quarter.
Game 2 is Monday night in Sacramento. The Warriors haven’t fallen behind 2-0 in a playoff series since the second round of the 2007 playoffs against Utah.