Warriors eye win against Kings in playoff home-court quest

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Golden State Warriors' pursuit of home-court advantage throughout the NBA playoffs without Kevin Durant continues Friday night when they tip off a three-day, two-game homestand against the Sacramento Kings.

The Warriors (57-14) have responded well to Durant's knee injury after falling briefly behind the San Antonio Spurs in the race for the best record in the Western Conference. They've won five straight since a loss at San Antonio on March 11 and now control their own destiny in the final 11 games of the regular season.

Golden State, the two-time defending Western Conference champions, has looked particularly impressive in its last four games, having dispatched of Orlando, Milwaukee, Oklahoma City and Dallas by an average of 24.0 points.

One key in the recent surge has been the improved 3-point shooting of Stephen Curry.

The unanimous league Most Valuable Player last season was just 18 of 65 (27.7 percent) from 3-point range during a stretch in which the Warriors lost five of seven games to fall behind the Spurs.

But he has since improved to 23 of 49 (46.9 percent) during Golden State's current five-game winning streak.

Curry credited the Golden State defense, which has held four straight opponents to 95 points or fewer, for aiding in his turnaround.

"It's a direct reflection of our defense," he told reporters after the Warriors' most recent home game, a 117-92 shellacking of Milwaukee last Saturday. "We're getting that open court a lot more. The morale is better when you're not taking the ball out of the basket every time."

Curry wasn't in top form the last time the Warriors hosted the Kings. He missed six of his eight 3-point attempts and contributed just 13 points to a 109-86 romp over Sacramento on Feb. 15.

Much has changed about the Kings in the ensuing five weeks. Sacramento no longer employs DeMarcus Cousins and now counts upon a younger former University of Kentucky big man -- rookie Skal Labissiere -- to carry a heavy load.

Labissiere played a scoreless nine minutes off the bench the last time the Kings visited Oakland. But the 21-year-old has scored in double figures in eight of 14 games since the Cousins trade, highlighted by a 32-point, 11-rebound explosion last week at Phoenix on the eve of his 21st birthday.

Labissiere was held to eight points, snapping a string of four straight double-digit performances, when the Kings suffered a 116-98 home loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday night.

The loss was Sacramento's third straight against a playoff contender, with another team with its eye on the prize on deck.

"We're playing teams that are very focused," Kings coach Dave Joerger lamented to reporters after the game against Milwaukee. "Sometimes throughout the course of the season you're going to get somebody that looks at our record and they are going to sleep on us. But right now,, we're playing teams that are very focused in trying to get a seeding and fighting for playoff spots."

Sacramento (27-44) has fallen well out of playoff contention and almost surely will miss the postseason for an 11th consecutive season.
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