Home Local NewsLocal SportsSacramento How De’Aaron Fox’s third quarter spurred Kings over Warriors

How De’Aaron Fox’s third quarter spurred Kings over Warriors

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A year apart, two third quarters and an epic win show the rise of De’Aaron Fox and how, as his coach said, “he could be a great player that wins at the highest of high levels.”

Look backing, a nightmarish third quarter ended the Sacramento Kings’ season 353 days before Tuesday’s play-in game against the Golden State Warriors at Golden 1 Center.

The same Warriors, of course, last spring were coming off a a fourth championship of their era months earlier and had no shortage of confidence despite being the lower seed. Stephen Curry finished with 50 points with 14 coming in the third, helping Golden State take control of the game with a 35-23 burst that zapped the energy out of Sacramento’s raucous crowd.

It was the most ever scored in a Game 7 and the Warriors won going away, 120-100. The Kings 16-year-playoff drought ended in bitter defeat.

Fast forward to Tuesday’s play-in game in the same venue between the same teams. The Kings appeared to be throttling the Warriors winning in all the margins during the first half. They had the advantage in fast break points and second-chance points combined, 23-8.

Sacramento led by 16 at one point midway through the second quarter. But a Warriors run led by Jonathan Kuminga trimmed the lead to four by halftime.

For all that went right for the Kings in the first 24 minutes, a four-point lead hardly felt like enough. Curry had just five points. It had all the makings for a familiar Curry explosion in the second half much like what happened in last year’s Game 7. The Kings took a two-point lead at halftime of that Game 7 before getting outscored 64-42.

So Fox on Tuesday responded — and the undermanned Kings missing their two best shooting guards, Malik Monk and Kevin Huerter — wouldn’t let their season end against Curry and the Warriors this time.

De’Aaron Fox’s star on the rise?

“He got to his spots,” Kings coach Mike Brown said afterward.

Fox’s quarter started with a 9-foot floater, a lay up, and a pull-up while getting fouled by Kuminga. He hit a pair of 3s, made 6 of 12 shots, and had to match Curry, who was starting to heat up after a slow first half.

Curry hit a couple wild shots, including a 3 while getting fouled. Curry scored 11 in frame, announcing his presence and trying to recreate his performance from last April.

Fox helped extend Sacramento’s run in the play-in tournament by finishing with 24 points in the 116-92 win. And like Curry in last year’s Game 7, he scored 14 points in the third quarter while the Kings blitzed Golden State 37-26 to take control of the game.

“One of the things I’ve talked about with Foxy,” Brown said, “he’s already a great player. He’s had a great individual career for a young guy already. But he could be a great player that wins at the highest of high levels. He’s that good.”

Browns words carry weight. He’s coached multiple time champions including Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.

“And the great ones that win at the highest levels, they have another gear that they get to when it’s go time,” Brown continued. “… And that doesn’t mean that they’re gonna rattle off 15 straight points. They take it to another gear and get to their spots because they’re that good, to score, (and) draw two and three defenders. They get to their spots and they make their other teammates better. They make the game easier for their teammates.”

Murray rising with Fox

Among the teammates made better: Keegan Murray, who had the best game of his career in one of his biggest. The second-year forward had a game-high 32 points while making eight 3-pointers which included setting the tone early with 14 points in the opening quarter.

Murray was the star of the night while Fox played the supporting role.

“That’s the step in the right direction, in terms of figuring out how to be great,” Brown said. “Not just a great individual player, but a great winning player that can take your team to heights that it’s not used to.”

The NBA’s award ballots were Tuesday, and Fox lkely won’t back up last season’s honors when he was named the first winner of the Jerry West Award, given to the NBA’s most clutch player. Fox led the NBA with 194 points points in clutch moments, 35 more than DeMar DeRozan in second.

Fox finished fifth in clutch points with 122 this year while the Kings were six seeds worse in the standings and two games worse in the win column.

His third quarter help quell a recent trend that hurt the Kings down the stretch of the regular season. In the March 26 loss to Mavericks last month the Kings were out-scored by 15 in the third quarter. April 4 against the Knicks and April 5 against the Celtics they lost the third quarter by 8. Two nights later in Oklahoma City, they were outscored by 16.

“We’ve had bad third quarters (in recent) games,” Fox’s backup Davion Mitchell said. “And he just came out aggressive and he kind of blew the energy out for the rest of the game.”

Fox didn’t talk about his individual scoring when asked about his third quarter that helped put the King over the top.

“(We needed) to continue winning the possession game,” Fox said when asked about his mindset at halftime. “You continue to to try to pound the offensive glass and yourself extra possession. And I think we did that throughout the entire night. We were able to cause turnovers and get out in transition.”

The Kings’ continued to win on the margins while getting Fox’s scoring. They won on second-chance points 25-9 and fast break points 12-6. Fox had two of Sacramento’s 10 steals.

“He was amazing,” Mitchell said. “He was aggressive throughout the whole game, defensively, offensively. He kind of put a head on our snake and he showed up.”

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