Stephen Curry scored a playoff career-high 50 points and answered time and again to will the defending champions on in their quest for a repeat.
Kevon Looney also grabbed 21 rebounds, and the Golden State Warriors advanced to the Western Conference semi-finals by beating the Sacramento Kings 120-100 in Sunday’s winner-take-all Game 7.
Curry’s points are the most in NBA history in a Game 7, topping former teammate Kevin Durant’s 48 for the Nets against Milwaukee in 2021.
The Warriors fell behind 2-0 in this series then won twice on the road in front of a hostile, raucous Sacramento crowd to become the first reigning champion to drop the first two games and win a postseason series.
Now, bring on LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference semi-finals. The Warriors and James have plenty of NBA finals history, dating back to his Cleveland days. Game 1 is on Tuesday night at Chase Center.
Sacramento’s comeback season is over long before these young Kings had planned. After snapping a 16-year playoff drought – the longest in NBA history – under Coach of the Year Mike Brown, playoff-starved Sacramento earned a No 3 seed but missed advancing to the second round for the first time since 2004.
Curry shot 20 of 38 with seven threes and delivered after almost every big play by Sacramento as Splash Brother Klay Thompson struggled on both ends again. But Thompson came through in some crucial moments, too.
Malik Monk’s putback and three-point play with 14.6 seconds remaining in the third pulled Sacramento within six only for Thompson to hit a long three and convert a four-point play to make it 91-81 heading into the final 12 minutes.
Domantas Sabonis had 22 points, eight rebounds and seven assists but the Warriors held De’Aaron Fox in check: he scored 16 points on 5-for-19 shooting in his third game playing with a broken index finger on his shooting hand.
Trailing 58-56 at halftime, the Warriors opened the second half with a 13-4 burst to take a 69-62 lead and force a Kings timeout at the 7:50 mark.
Sacramento scored early on with a beautiful combination of classic give-and-goes and long jumpers off crisp passing around the perimeter. But Curry kept coming, and Looney kept scrapping to create second and third opportunities during his brilliant series on the boards.
Curry fired from way back with precision and fearlessly drove to the basket with jaw-dropping acrobatics all afternoon to send Kings fans to the exits late in the fourth.
Thompson began 1 for 10, missing his first five threes before connecting at the 9:18 mark of the third. Golden State, playing just their fourth Game 7 under Steve Kerr since the 2014-15 title run, were smart down the stretch after 18 turnovers in Game 6 led to Kerr calling his team “wildly undisciplined.”
Kerr had no doubt before the deciding game – and he went back to Draymond Green in the starting lineup for Game 7. Green was suspended for Game 3 for stepping on Sabonis.
“These guys are champions, defending champions from a year ago, four in the last eight years, these guys know the deal,” Kerr said. “There’s a sense of confidence and a sense that we’re going to go get it done.”
Just before the final buzzer, Kerr offered a long embrace to Brown – Golden State’s former top assistant, who guided the Kings’ remarkable turnaround this season.