In Game 7 of the 2016 Finals, a careless fourth-quarter turnover by Stephen Curry helped contribute to the 73-win Golden State Warriors becoming the first team in NBA history to blow a 3-1 lead in the Finals. Seven years later, another careless Curry mistake — this time calling a timeout when his team had none remaining — nearly caused the Warriors to fall into a 3-1 deficit of their own against the Sacramento Kings. But a potential winning 3-pointer by Harrison Barnes — who was on the Warriors’ side back in 2016 — was off, leaving the series tied at two games apiece as it shifts back to Sacramento on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET on TNT).

Golden State’s title defense hinges on its ability to win two of the next three games — including at least one on the road, where it has won just 11 times in 43 tries this season — against one of the NBA’s most exciting young teams.

Let’s look at the four biggest factors that will decide the fate of the battle for Northern California bragging rights and a date with either the Memphis Grizzlies or Los Angeles Lakers in the second round.

This series has been riveting so far in large part because of the duel between the two point guards separated by 10 years in age. Fox, making his playoff debut, has been incredible, leading the Kings in points, assists, steals and free throw attempts (and, coincidentally, doing so while wearing Curry’s signature sneakers).

Fox has scored 126 points in his first four career playoff games. Only five players in NBA history have scored more in their first four games, and they’re all among the best the game has ever seen (Wilt Chamberlain, George Mikan, LeBron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bob McAdoo). Unfortunately for Sacramento, Fox fractured the tip of his left index finger and his status for Game 5 remains up in the air.

Meanwhile, Curry — who, for reference, scored 109 points in his first four career playoff games in 2013 — has also scored exactly 126 points in the first four games of this series, a remarkable total for someone his age (35). Among players 35 or older, only two players have scored more through four playoff games: Michael Jordan (144 in 1998) and Abdul-Jabbar (133 in 1983).

Both of those players reached the Finals (with Jordan famously winning “The Last Dance“), but for Curry to do that, he’s going to have to have at least two more great games, in part because this year’s Warriors squad has been lost without him.

2. The non-Curry minutes

During last year’s postseason run, the Warriors were significantly better with Curry in the game. That’s to be expected. Curry is a two-time MVP (2015 and 2016). It’s common sense that his teams would be worse with him off the court. However, “worse” doesn’t begin to describe how the Warriors have played when Curry is resting in this series.

Depth has been a concern for the defending champs all season long, and for good reason, but the outrageous extremity of the Curry splits is the defining element of this series so far.

The only reason the Kings are still in this series is they have absolutely torched the Warriors when Curry has been on the bench. In 34 minutes of action (out of a possible 192) with Curry off the court, the Kings have outscored the Warriors by 38 points.

In Game 1, Golden State outscored Sacramento by 11 points in the 37:25 Curry played. In the 10:35 he sat, the Kings outscored the Warriors by 14 points.

Numbers like that have naturally tempted Warriors coach Steve Kerr to keep Curry in games longer.

In Game 2, Kerr kept Curry on the court for 40 minutes and 46 seconds. The Warriors won those minutes by 3 points. As for the other 7 minutes and 14 seconds? The Kings won those by 11 points (and won the game by 8).

The trend continued in Game 4, when Curry played a season-high 42:42. The Warriors won those minutes by 7 points, but lost the other 5:18 by 6 points.

In the glory days of the Warriors’ dynasty, their motto was “Strength in Numbers.” The bench lineups were bolstered by reliable veterans such as Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and David West. Even last season, Curry averaged less than 35 minutes per game in the postseason. Kerr can’t afford to let him rest that much with this year’s bench, which is reliant on a core of Donte DiVincenzo, Gary Payton II, Moses Moody, and Jonathan Kuminga, who have not been up to the task yet this series.

Keeping Draymond Green in the bench role he played in Game 4 could help in the non-Curry minutes. With Curry off the floor, the Warriors’ offense averaged 110.4 points per 100 possessions this season. But when Green has been in games without Curry that figure jumps to 115, while the defense has allowed only 109 per 100 possessions with Green in and Curry out. That’s encouraging.

3. Sacramento’s 3-point shooting

Barnes’ missed 3 at the buzzer of Game 4 epitomizes the most troubling trend of this series for the Kings: Their 3-point shooters have let them down.

Consider these stats: Sacramento ranks first among the 16 playoff teams in shot quality score on 3-point shots this postseason, according to Second Spectrum. Sacramento ranks 15th among the 16 playoff teams in 3-point shooting percentage this postseason.

The Kings are getting great looks on the edges, but they aren’t making them. As a team, they’ve made just 27.6% of their catch-and-shoot 3s this postseason. That ranks 16th among the 16 playoff teams, after the Kings ranked 10th among all 30 teams in the same category during the regular season, making 37.6% of their catch-and-shoot 3s.

The two biggest culprits in the Kings’ cold snap have been Barnes (who has made 5 of his 20 3-point attempts after shooting 37.4% this season) and Kevin Huerter. In his first season in Sacramento, Huerter shot a scorching 40.2% from beyond the arc. Of the 23 players who attempted at least 500 3s this season, he was one of five who made at least 40%. Four of them — Curry, Huerter, Klay Thompson and Keegan Murray — are playing in this series, but only Huerter’s numbers jump out, and not in a good way.

Huerter is a dismal 3-for-21 from 3-point range, third worst this postseason among the 88 players who’ve attempted at least 10 3-pointers (ahead of only Brooklyn’s Joe Harris and Memphis’s Tyus Jones).

Huerter’s teammates broke out of their slump in Game 4, hitting 40% of 35 3s in their one-point loss, but Huerter attempted only a season-low one 3-pointer in the game. His untimely shooting slump is a big reason Sacramento’s offensive rating has dipped from the best in the NBA during the regular season to 10th among this year’s 16 playoff teams.

One of these last three games could very well be determined by a red-hot 3-point shooter. Over the past nine seasons, we’ve seen both Curry and Thompson deliver series-winning performances from downtown. If they want to send the champs home, the Kings will need more from their catch-and-shoot specialists.

4. Road Warriors

The good news for Sacramento is all it has to do is win home games to win this series. The Kings have done that so far, and Golden State’s inability to win road games continues to be its biggest weakness.

Including their losses in Games 1 and 2, the defending champs are a ghastly 11-32 on the road this season — and that’s after winning four of their last five road games to end the regular season. That .256 winning percentage would have placed them at the very bottom of the West this season, behind both the Spurs and Rockets, who finished the regular season with a .268 road winning percentage.

Golden State’s home-road splits were remarkable during the regular season, particularly on defense. They held opponents to 111.7 points per game at home while giving up 122.5 points per game on the road. Warriors opponents shot 45.1% from the field and 33.0% from 3 at Chase Center, and 48.6% from the field and 39.7% from 3 everywhere else. Those trends (aside from the 3-point shooting, as mentioned above) have held up in this series.

The Warriors did win at Golden 1 Center earlier this month, but in a game in which the Kings rested Fox, Huerter, Domantas Sabonis and Malik Monk. Those four will all be playing in Game 5 and a possible Game 7 in Sacramento.

The Warriors have won at least one road game in 27 consecutive playoff series, a streak that covers the entirety of Curry’s postseason career. If they’re going to extend another streak — winning 18 consecutive series against Western Conference opponents — they’ll need to solve their season-long road woes. Otherwise they’ll be back home for good before the second round even begins.

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