Warriors down Kings to level series, Knicks and Celtics on brink
Stephen Curry scored 32 points as the Golden State Warriors held off a ferocious fourth-quarter fightback from the Sacramento Kings to secure a series-leveling 126-125 victory in the NBA playoffs on Sunday.
Harrison Barnes almost snatched victory for Sacramento on the buzzer, but his long-range effort bounced off the rim to leave the NBA champions celebrating a result that leaves them tied at 2-2 in the best-of-seven series after dropping games one and two.
In the East, meanwhile, the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics moved within a victory of advancing, the Knicks beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 102-93 and the Celtics downing Atlanta 129-121 to each take 3-1 series leads.
Curry breathed a sigh of relief after two uncharacteristic blunders in a frenetic finale at the Chase Center.
The Warriors talisman missed a wide-open three-pointer with his team leading 126-121 with less than a minute remaining.
Curry compounded that rare miss by erroneously calling a time out when the Warriors had none left, earning a technical foul and allowing Sacramento’s Malik Monk to make it a four-point game with a free throw.
A superb De’Aaron Fox three-pointer from 28 feet then left Sacramento within one at 126-125, and when Curry missed another floater, the Kings had a chance to win it only to see Barnes’s late effort bounce out.
“I ain’t gonna lie, I thought it was the smartest play in the world,” Curry said of his timeout call after a failed challenge had cost the Warriors their last time out. “I looked over at the bench and everybody was shaking their head.
“But we did what we needed to do defensively in those last 10 seconds,” a relieved Curry said. “We’ve protected home court, and now we move on.”
Barnes’s late miss was the final act of a thrilling battle between the Western Conference rivals that saw the lead change hands no fewer than 19 times as momentum ebbed and flowed throughout.
Golden State looked to have turned the screw decisively in the third quarter, outscoring the Kings 37-23 to start the fourth with a 10-point advantage.
Sacramento, however, came surging back with a 7-0 run to start the final quarter and only a handful of points separated the two teams in the waning seconds.
Curry led the Warriors’ scoring with 32 points while Klay Thompson added 26, including four three-pointers, and Jordan Poole had 22.
Andrew Wiggins added 18 points while Draymond Green, returning after suspension, had 12 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists off the bench.
Fox produced a dazzling performance for Sacramento with 38 points while Keegan Murray added 23 and Monk 16.
The Kings host game five on Wednesday.
– Knicks almost there –
In New York, Jalen Brunson drained five three-pointers on the way to 29 points for the Knicks, who again electrified Madison Square Garden.
With just one win from three more games the Knicks can advance past the first round for the first time since 2013.
New York led by as many as 15 on the way to a nine-point halftime lead.
A big third quarter saw the Cavs sneak into a narrow lead before a sustained Knicks rally in the fourth.
Brunson was one of four players in double figures with R.J. Barrett providing offensive support with 26 points.
Darius Garland led Cleveland 23 points but Donovan Mitchell had a game to forget after finishing with just 11 points — only two in the second half.
The Cavs will try to extend the series when they host game five on Wednesday.
The Celtics can wrap up their series at home on Tuesday after bouncing back from a disappointing game-three defeat with a convincing victory in Atlanta.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown scored 31 points apiece for the Celtics, each delivering a dunk in the final minute as the Celtics thwarted the Hawks’ final rally bid.
Hawks star Trae Young finished with a game-high 35 points and handed out 14 assists.
But Boston stepped up their defensive intensity and had an answer for every Atlanta run, never trailing after the first quarter.
Originally published as Warriors down Kings to level series, Knicks and Celtics on brink