NBA Matchup: The Kings get revenge and end the Warriors' season, playing the Pelicans for the No. 8 seed. – Sports News (Trending Perfect)

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SACRAMENTO, CA - APRIL 16: Andrew Wiggins #22 of the Golden State Warriors and Keegan Murray #13 of the Sacramento Kings go for a loose ball in the first quarter during the Play-In Championship at Golden 1 Center on April 16, 2024 in Sacramento, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading or using this image, user agrees to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
The Kings ended the Warriors' season on Tuesday. Now we see what else they can do. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The Sacramento Kings showed the difference one year can make on Tuesday. The result was the end of the Golden State Warriors' season.

The Kings defeated the Warriors 118-94 in a 9-for-10 game in the NBA championship game, one year after falling to their Northern California rivals in Game 7 of the first round. Their reward will be Friday's game against the New Orleans Pelicans, who lost earlier Tuesday to the Los Angeles Lakers.

It was a game where you can't blame Kings fans for getting nervous. Much has been said about the Warriors' decline since winning their fourth title of the Stephen Curry era, but they still have the status of reaching the top of the mountain.

Obviously the Kings don't have that. Instead, they had a young core in their second year of respectability, at risk of stagnation after a 46-36 regular season.

Some of those concerns may have faded in the first quarter, as the Kings jumped out to a 10-point lead, then a 16-point lead in the second quarter. The Warriors looked slower and their shots weren't falling. Naturally, the tension returned as the game approached halftime, when the Warriors cut the lead to four points.

That lead was down to one point at the start of the third quarter, but then the Kings woke up. The 12-2 score gave them a big lead again, and they kept hitting from there. De'Aaron Fox and Keegan Murray led the charge, Domantas Sabonis facilitated the game and Keon Ellis made timely 3s.

Ellis' performance was particularly significant considering who would replace him. Sacramento lost Kevin Huerter to shoulder surgery late last month and promoted Ellis to the starting lineup. That would be Ellis, who went undrafted and spent most of his rookie season in the G League before signing a two-way deal last season and entering the team's rotation this year.

That was a little bit of what was different this time around for the Kings, but honestly, the most drastic change was on Golden State's part.

Where do the Warriors go from here?

Let's get this straight: when you have four major players in your rotation north of 33 years old, losing in the bad part of tournament play is no way to inspire hope for the future.

The Warriors looked sluggish and sloppy on Tuesday. Worse still, they looked old. Stephen Curry was tough by his standards, scoring 22 points on 8-of-16 shooting with four rebounds, two assists and six turnovers. Klay Thompson was tough, by all accounts, with 0 points on 0-of-10 shooting. Draymond Green was relatively quiet with 12 points and six assists. Chris Paul had two points and was minus-15 in 18 minutes.

The team as a whole shot 10 of 31 (32.3%) from deep with 16 turnovers.

Golden State's prime directive over the past few years has been to find young talent to offset the graceful aging of their longtime stars. Andrew Wiggins was supposed to maintain his All-Star level, but he didn't. Jonathan Kuminga and Musa Modi did not become rotation players in the playoffs. Brandin Podzemski and Trace Jackson-Davis are just starters.

Whatever the Warriors' long-term plans were, they collapsed on Tuesday. Now come the tough questions, the toughest of which is what to do with Thompson. The five-time All-Star has looked particularly limited this season and is a pending free agent. Without a lot of room next season, an exit seems likely.

The bigger question is what else the Warriors will have to do to make Tuesday a weak point and now another data point in the fall.

The Kings will face the Pelicans on Friday, but it remains to be seen what version of the Pelicans they will get.

It could be a version without All-Star Zion Williamson, who exited a loss to New Orleans earlier Tuesday in the fourth quarter with what coach Willie Green described as left leg soreness. Williamson, who has a long injury history, will undergo imaging on Wednesday.

The Kings will need any help they can get, as they went 0-5 against the Pelicans in the regular season.

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