Friday night’s loss to the Warriors stung, and the players felt it worse than the fans. Iman Shumpert didn’t want to hear about moral victories, and De’Aaron Fox spoke about needing to close out those games and putting more on himself to do it. Well tonight Fox and company put words into actions and beat a Dallas Mavericks squad that had only lost twice at home all season before tonight. Fox led the way for Sacramento with 28 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds and 3 steals, and played some superb defense on young Mavericks star Luka Doncic in the second half.
The first half was a back and forth affair. With Dennis Smith out for the Mavericks, Luka served as the de facto point guard whenever he was on the floor. Luka led the way for Dallas with 28 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists, but also had 5 turnovers and missed some key free throws down the stretch. Life got a bit harder for Luka in the second half as De’Aaron Fox decided to start guarding him, and despite the height and weight advantage, Fox more than held his own.
Luka Doncic asks for a screen and De'Aaron Fox still blocks him at the rim. pic.twitter.com/dCNShQxe7p— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) December 17, 2018
Every Kings starter finished in double digits. Buddy Hield joined Fox with 28 points, making 12-23 from the field. Bogdan Bogdanovic struggled a bit with his shot tonight at times, but still managed to put up 15 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists in 37 minutes of action. Nemanja Bjelica also saw more time with Marvin Bagley out, playing 34 minutes, and he did well with that extra time, putting up a 15 point, 10 rebound double-double and most surprisingly providing some rim protection with 4 blocks to boot. Bjelica also hit a couple of clutch three pointers in the fourth quarter that helped put the game away.
It wasn’t too surprising to see the Kings not opt to play Harry Giles or Skal Labissiere in Bagley’s absence. The Mavericks tended to play a lot of small ball, with DeAndre Jordan serving as the only real big man on the court. Jordan gobbled up all the rebounds as a result, finishing with a game and season-high 23 boards. Troy Williams got some extended playing time as a result, and with only 7 days left on his two-way contract, it will be interesting to see if the Kings make him a full-time player soon (they would have to waive or trade someone to do so as they are currently at 15 players).
The Kings managed the victory despite losing the free throw battle (31 attempts for Dallas to just 21 for Sacramento) and the rebounding battle (53 to 47), mostly because they shot better (41.7% to 46.9%) and turned the ball over less (14 to just 9). Neither team shot the three ball well, with both teams making 9 each on 30+ attempts.
But the story of the game was really watching De’Aaron Fox come in during the fourth quarter and put the team on his shoulders. One play in particular stood out, when he outjumped DeAndre Jordan for a rebound, and immediately pushed it up the court through the entire Mavericks defense and got a bucket at the rim.
De’Aaron Fox is unbelievable. Outrebounds DeAndre Jordan, regains his balance and sprints the length of the court for a layup. pic.twitter.com/Bps6K7O0Ob— Alex Kramers (@alexkramers) December 17, 2018
The number of players who could do that in the entire NBA on a consistent basis can be counted on one hand, and Fox is one of them. Fox has a fire in him that can’t be quenched and is turning into a legitimate star. The Kings are now 16-13 as a result.
Sacramento now heads to Minnesota to take on the Timberwolves tomorrow.
For the opponent’s perspective, check out Mavs Moneyball.