SAN FRANCISCO – First, Draymond Green suggested to Warriors coach Steve Kerr that he come off the bench for Game 4 against the Sacramento Kings after Golden State had played so brilliantly without him.
Then at halftime Sunday, a couple of assistant coaches offered up the idea to Kerr that Green should defend De'Aaron Fox for the final two quarters.
Those collaborative, spot-on moves helped overshadow a late blunder, and now the defending champions are all tied up in their first-round playoff series at two games apiece.
Stephen Curry scored 32 points but gave Sacramento a late chance when he called a timeout Golden State didn't have, then the Warriors held on to beat the Kings 126-125 on Sunday when Harrison Barnes missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“These games are coming down to the wire, and you’ve just got to really finish possessions and try to give yourself the best chance, and then sometimes, it’s just, does the ball go in or not,” Kerr said.
Fox had 38 points, nine rebounds and five assists for Sacramento. His 3 with 28.7 seconds left pulled the Kings within one, then Curry missed a 16-foot jumper on the other end and Keegan Murray corralled the rebound. With Curry and Green defending, Fox dished to former Warrior Barnes for the potential game-winning 3, which hit the back of the rim.
“Wide open,” Barnes said. “Fox trusted me to take that shot. Back rim. On to the next but I feel confident in where we are.”
Golden State led 126-121 with 42.4 seconds left when Curry called the excessive timeout, and Malik Monk made the technical free throw for Sacramento.
Klay Thompson made a baseline 3-pointer to beat the third-quarter buzzer and another with 3:24 left, finishing with 26 points for the Warriors.
Game 5 in the best-of-seven series is Wednesday night at Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center, where the Kings went ahead 2-0. The Warriors struggled on the road all year.
“As good as this feels, it’s got to be quickly forgotten about,” Thompson said.
Curry’s 3 with 4:10 remaining gave Golden State a 121-117 lead and he finished 11 for 22 with five 3s while dueling all afternoon with Fox.
After Monk’s layup made it 107-106 Kings with 9:03 to play, Curry responded with a driving layup and a 3 in a 14-second span.
Green came off the bench after serving a one-game suspension while the Warriors dominated Thursday’s Game 3 without him. Given the momentum and success, Kerr stuck with Jordan Poole in the starting five Sunday.
“I'm a firm believer if something isn't broke you don't fix it,” Green said.
He made a nifty behind-the-back pass for a Curry 3 midway through the fourth, then swatted a shot by Domantas Sabonis with 1:37 left.
Green, disciplined for stepping on Sabonis’ chest in the fourth quarter of Game 2, checked in to a rousing ovation with 6:38 left in the opening quarter and wound up with 12 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. He and Fox picked up double technicals at the 5:43 mark of the first.
Sabonis added 14 points, seven rebounds and eight assists and now heads home determined to get the Kings closer to winning their first playoff series since eliminating Dallas in the 2004 first round.
“We made some timely mistakes, especially in the fourth quarter,” coach Mike Brown said. “This is where our playoff inexperience comes into play because you can’t rest out there, or you can’t think that you can play something a certain way and the champions are not going to make you pay the price.”
Poole scored 22 points, Andrew Wiggins added 18 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots, and Kevon Looney pulled down 14 rebounds to go with eight points and six assists.
Murray’s 3 with 10:43 left pulled the Kings within 102-99 after a 7-0 burst to begin the fourth after the 3 by Thompson to end the third put the Warriors ahead 102-92. Brown instructed his young star to “let it fly” and Murray shined under the matinee lights, scoring 23 points.
Thompson’s driving and dishing is something Kerr pointed to as a success opening up the floor in Game 3 and Thompson penetrated and found Moses Moody for a baseline 3 late in the first. Golden State moved the ball with snappy passes that created open looks.
Murray shot 9 for 13 with five 3s after he went a combined 1 for 8 on 3s and 3 of 13 in the first three games.
“I’ve just tried to be more aggressive throughout the playoffs and I knew eventually I’d catch my stride on the offensive end, so it’s just a matter of time and I came in confident,” Murray said.
Kings: Sacramento scored 18 points off Golden State’s 12 turnovers while committing just 10 of its own. ... The Kings shot 14 of 35 from deep, 3 for 11 by Fox and 1 of 6 by Barnes.
Warriors: Gary Payton II returned to play seven minutes after missing Game 3 with an illness. ... Green had started the last 132 postseason games he played, last coming off the bench in Game 3 against the Clippers in 2014. ... Golden State shot 52.2% in the first.
The Warriors improved to 75-3 since Kerr became coach when leading a playoff game by 10 or more at any point in the fourth quarter.