NBA play-in: Kings get revenge and end Warriors' season, will play Pelicans for No. 8 seed

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - 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 Tournament at Golden 1 Center on April 16, 2024 in Sacramento, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting 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) (Ezra Shaw via Getty Images)

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

The Kings defeated the Warriors 118-94 in the No. 9 vs. No. 10 game of the NBA play-in tournament, one year after falling to their Northern California rivals in Game 7 of the first round. Their reward will be a Friday game against the New Orleans Pelicans, who lost earlier Tuesday to the Los Angeles Lakers.

It was a game where you couldn't blame Kings fans for being nervous. Much has been made of the Warriors' decline since winning their fourth title of the Stephen Curry era, but they still carry the status of having made it all the way to the mountaintop.

The Kings obviously don't have that. Instead, they had a young core in its second year of respectability, at risk of stagnating after a 46-36 regular season.

Some of those worries might have faded in the first quarter, where 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. Of course, tension again arrived as the game neared halftime, when the Warriors cut the lead to four points.

That lead fell to as little as one early in the third quarter, but then the Kings woke up. A 12-2 run gave them a significant lead again, and they just kept hammering from there. De'Aaron Fox and Keegan Murray led the charge, with Domantas Sabonis facilitating and Keon Ellis making some timely 3s.

Ellis' performance was particularly significant given whom he was replacing. Sacramento lost Kevin Huerter to shoulder surgery late last month and promoted Ellis to the starting lineup. Ellis was undrafted and spent most of his rookie season in the G League before signing a two-way deal last offseason and entering the team's rotation this year.

That was a little of what was different this time for the Kings, but, frankly, the more drastic change was on Golden State's side.

Where do the Warriors go from here?

Let's state this plainly: When you have four major players in your rotation north of 33 years old, losing in the bad part of the play-in tournament is not a way to inspire hope for the future.

The Warriors looked slow and sloppy Tuesday. Worse, they just looked old. Stephen Curry was rough by his standards, with 22 points on 8-of-16 shooting with four rebounds, two assists and six turnovers. Klay Thompson was rough, by any standard, 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 a 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 younger talent to offset their longtime stars' graceful aging. Andrew Wiggins was supposed to maintain an All-Star form and hasn't. Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody haven't become playoff-caliber rotation players. Brandin Podziemski and Trayce Jackson-Davis are just rookies.

Whatever the Warriors' long-term plans are, they fell apart Tuesday. Now come the hard questions, the toughest of which will be what to do with Thompson. The five-time All-Star has looked particularly limited this season and is a pending free agent. Without much in the way of cap space next season, an exit looks likely.

The bigger question is what else the Warriors will have to do to make Tuesday a blip and not one more data point in a downfall.

Will Kings have to face Zion Williamson?

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

It could very well be a version without All-Star Zion Williamson, who exited New Orleans' loss earlier Tuesday in the fourth quarter with what head coach Willie Green called left leg soreness. Williamson, who has a considerable history of injuries, will undergo imaging on Wednesday.

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