De’Aaron Fox not only put a fork in this overtime game, but he also emphasized his early case for an all-star bid in Saturday’s 126-123 victory over the Magic by nailing the game-winning three from just past the half court line.
Having returned from a one-game absence due to a bone bruise, Fox did not mess around, dropping a game-high 37 points on 14 of 24 from the field. Alongside him, Domantas Sabonis also had a great game—minus his 5 of 12 from the free throw line—scoring 25 points, snagging 11 rebounds, and distributing 6 assists.
The Magic, as they’ve been doing all year, put up a formidable fight. The first overall pick in the draft Paolo Banchero scored 33 and grabbed 16 boards. Bol Bol was both a contributor and an eyebrow-raiser all night, scoring 23 points on 10 of 11 from the field. And the second-year Franz Wagner finished with 31 points, 10 of which came in the five-minute overtime period.
Orlando’s size and length seemed to disrupt Sacramento’s offensive flow in the first half. The Kings shot 43.5% from the field, but mustered just 47 points as Kevin Huerter appeared nullified by the length that was put on him. Red Velvet couldn’t even get a shot attempt up until midway through the second quarter.
Sabonis put up 15 points and 5 rebounds in the first half, playing solid defense and leading the offense, but the Magic had put up 65 points on 60.5% shooting. Much of Orlando’s scores in the second quarter came from the flurry of alley-oop opportunities they had. Sure, nobody expects a team to shoot over 60% in a night, but if a team gets the freebies near the rim that the Magic were getting, maybe they could.
After the Magic had come out of half and laid into the Warriors in their previous game on Thursday, it was imperative the Kings do the opposite. And they did.
In the third quarter, De’Aaron Fox put up 13 points after scoring just 9 in the first half. His team also featured some excellent ball movement. With Fox coming out to do business, Sabonis continuing his inside aggression, and Huerter hitting a couple of three’s, the Kings put up a 36-point quarter.
Better yet, they held their opponent to 12 third quarter points as Sacramento reattained the lead for the first time since early in the first quarter.
But credit to the young Magic team as they came back in the fourth quarter to hold the Kings to 23 points on 16 field goal attempts as well as to score 29 points themselves on 21 attempts. Sacramento’s second unit (with Metu in rather than Holmes) played pretty well at the end of the third and the start of the fourth, but Banchero’s 10 points and 6 rebounds in the final period of regulation forced the game into overtime.
Credit to Fox, too, because as the Magic closed out the final quarter in solid fashion, Fox was there to score the Kings’ last 6 points of the quarter, which was equally responsible for securing OT.
In the extra five-minute period, the two opponents traded some baskets before the Kings carved out a decent 6-point lead off a Malik Monk three-pointer that came out of a timeout with less than a minute remaining.
Wagner put up a couple quick scores and the Magic began the foul game. Sabonis hit two big ones, and then Monk did the same after another Wagner score.
As the Magic pushed it up the floor, Fox made a silly move to try and take a charge in a clear cut “don’t foul” scenario, granting Jalen Suggs two free throws, which he hit to slash the lead back down to two.
Chaos ensued when Monk got trapped in the corner on the subsequent inbounds pass with 11 seconds on the clock. He tried to hit Trey Lyles, but it was a little behind him, allowing Chuma Okeke to scoop it up and slam home the tying bucket.
There were just six and a half seconds remaining with the outlook for a second overtime period looking more than probable. That is, until Fox took the ball up just past the half court line for a deep, pull up game-winning three-pointer.
Fox picks up where he left off: playing like an all-star
De’Aaron Fox could not play Wednesday, the night Tyler Herro sealed it for the Heat. For a competitor, that must have been agonizing.
Though it seemed apt to maybe give Fox another day—just to make sure he’s healed all the way—looking back at it, there wasn’t anything that was going to hold him back from getting on the floor.
Good thing, too, because for as well as Sabonis and some of the guys off the bench played, it was Fox’s ability to cut up the Magic defense and get inside during the second half that was a major factor.
The Kings don’t win this game if Fox sits out.
And they didn’t make a serious run at it until Fox returned to form leading this team.
Having been able to watch Fox this season, observers and fans of the Kings know damn good and well the point guard is playing like an all-star.
Saturday night’s performance—and frankly, it’s finish—was the loudest endorsement of that bid.
Okay, Sabonis was straight awful from the free throw line. It’s been haunting him all season as he is converting just 61% of those looks from the stripe.
He did bear down and hit two clutch free throws with about 20 seconds left in the overtime period, but there’s no doubt he needs to amend that issue.
However, Domas did do a lot of great things in this game. He was that facilitating centerpiece to the offense, he was aggressive and effective inside again, but more than anything, he had perhaps his best defensive game.
And it was a good time for it because this Magic team has so much size.
Obviously the Magic had their fair share of points inside, scoring 78 paint points in this one while shooting just 17.4% from beyond the arc, but Sabonis had several moments where he looked great defensively—even if the opponent hit some tough ones—both putting himself in position to guard the paint and executing well on his switches.
More than anything, though, he committed 4 personal fouls in a little under 40 minutes played, stringing together another game where foul trouble could not rear its ugly head.
In all, it was a nice defensive game for Domantas Sabonis.
Monk and Lyles combine for 30 points
Kevin Huerter only scored 9 points, getting up only 7 shot attempts on the night, and Keegan Murray scored only 3 on 6 attempts from the field.
The Kings needed production from elsewhere.
As it turns out, they got a combined 30 points from Malik Monk and Trey Lyles off the bench. Both went 5 of 10 from the field for 15 points each.
Monk was excellent with his 15 points and 5 assists. It was he who hit a critical three in overtime to create a little lead. He also looked like a true veteran on two fouls taken where his ability to sell it arguably got the whistle blown. The one in particular that made the biggest difference also came in overtime when Monk’s acting accentuated what already slightly looked like an illegal Wendell Carter Jr. screen.
And Lyles was his typical steady force off the bench. Overall, he went 4 of 7 from three, but more specifically, he went 3 of 4 in the second half. He continued to come in and find a way to help the team without trying to do too much, hitting his shots and continuing his improved defense that he’s shown this year.
The bench unit was playing pretty well around the end of the third quarter mainly because of these two, and for good reason, both were featured in the lineup that started the overtime period.
Richaun Holmes’ struggles
Richaun Holmes has been having a rough year. Offensively, there’s little rhythm, and defensively, he’s a non-factor.
He just hasn’t brought much to the table. At the very least, one would expect him to be an adequate backup, but that has not been the case.
Holmes started the night getting those primary backup center minutes. He got his five minutes of play, with about half in the first quarter and the other half wrapping around into the second. However, near the end of the half when Brown subbed Sabonis out, he put Chimezie Metu in.
And for the second half, Metu was playing the role of the backup 5.
It’s not that Metu was coming in and tearing it up. Yes, he came in with energy, showing off moments like when he ran well in transition to get a lob from Terence Davis, or got to the open space under the basket with head’s up urgency, but it’s more probable that he was getting minutes because Holmes was ineffective.
In his five minutes of play in the first half, Holmes did have two offensive rebounds, but other than that, he was nowhere to be found.
The biggest critique can be made of his defense, which continues to look subdued and indecisive.
There were moments against the Magic where he didn’t rotate to help effectively and where he either did not contest or was late to it. In fact, after Wagner got an easy layup on a lax Holmes, the Magic went right back to it with success and zero adjustment from the Kings big man.
Holmes’ struggles from last year just haven’t gone away.
Another quiet game for Keegan Murray
So the battle between the first and fourth overall picks was not what one would have hoped it’d have been.
Make no mistake about it, Paolo Banchero’s 33 points and 16 rebounds was an amazing thing to witness. But Keegan Murray was far quieter, scoring 3 points on 1 of 6 from the field (1 of 4 from three) with a couple boards and a steal in 24 minutes played.
This would be the third game in a row now where Murray did not shoot the ball exceptionally well.
In his last three games, Murray has shot 9 of 28 (32.1%) from the field and 4 of 16 (25%) from three-point range. In his first four contests, Murray was 28 of 52 (53.8%) from the field and 13 of 31 (41.9%) from deep.
And each of these last three games have been progressively less productive. He scored 12 against the Hornets on Monday, 7 on Wednesday, and his 3 points on Saturday.
In the +/- department, he appeared fine in the first two games of the road trip, but he posted a -12 in Orlando.
Obviously, there’s no reason to have major concern, but it is noteworthy.
It could easily be chalked up to the fact this was the first major road trip for the kid, but it will be important both for himself and his team that he get back in a groove sooner than later.
That’s it for the east coast segment of this road trip.
The Kings will now travel back to Northern California in good spirits to take on the Warriors in San Francisco on Monday night. Sacramento has kind of been shadowing Golden State on this east coast road trip so the two will finally meet again.
Ten games in, the Warriors are 3-7, having lost five straight and six of their last seven. Defensively, the reigning champs are struggling.
It might be as good of a time as ever to go back and try to get a win at the Chase Center.
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