The Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings, two teams coming off tight losses at home Thursday, meet Saturday night in the California capital in a series that has been quite competitive the past two seasons.
After the Warriors won 15 of 16 meetings dating back to the start of the 2014 season, the Northern California rivals split their four-game season series last year, with each winning twice on the opponent's home floor.
The Warriors narrowly escaped with a 117-116 home victory this November, before running their winning streak in Sacramento to three with a 130-125 triumph in December.
Golden State (25-14) enters the contest having won three in a row on the road, but coming off a 135-134 overtime loss at home to Houston on Thursday night, a game in which the Warriors blew a 20-point lead.
Stephen Curry, while expressing disappointment in the loss, told the national television audience on TNT after the game that losing now will help produce more winning down the line.
"We're challenged, and that's great. I love it," he insisted. "I love the vibe in terms of nothing's easy. We are having to fight, to create momentum and to put a string of good games together, and we haven't done it yet. So it's giving us something to really lock in and focus on as we get 2019 started."
The Warriors surely have been challenged by an unlikely source -- the Kings -- in their last six meetings.In fact, Sacramento (19-19) has challenged just about everyone of late, with none of their last seven games having been decided by more than nine points.
That includes three straight losses by seven, five (in overtime) and four points, the latter being Thursday's 117-113 home setback at the hands of the team with the top record in the Western Conference, the Denver Nuggets.
The Kings led the Los Angeles Lakers entering the fourth period on Sunday, were up nine with three minutes left against Portland in the overtime loss on Tuesday and had a 13-point halftime advantage over Denver on Thursday.
In the end, they had nothing but three losses to show for it, dropping them back to .500 for the first time since they were 11-11 on Dec. 1.
"We've got to finish games, man. Just lock in and finish games," Kings star Buddy Hield observed to reporters after the Denver game. "It's not the 'young' excuse. We're right there. So we've just got to finish games and protect the lead and find a way. Every team in the league, they find a way how to win. We have to find a way to win."
On Saturday, that almost surely once again will have to be without standout rookie Marvin Bagley III, who has missed the Kings' last 10 games with a bruised left knee. He hopes to be back next week.
Bagley had arguably his best game of the season in the Kings' 117-116 loss at Golden State in November, going for a season-high-tying 20 points and a season-high 17 rebounds.
Updated January 4, 2019