Six and a half seconds left to play. Harrison Barnes pressures Nikola Jokic. Jokic loses the ball. De’Aaron Fox flips it forward. Barnes misses a tomahawk dunk. And Buddy Hield, trailing the play, gets one hand on the rebound for a tip-in to win the game for the Kings.
Usually at the altitude, road teams can’t keep up with Denver. But Sacramento flipped the script in the season opener.
De’Aaron Fox and the Kings dictated the pace against the Nuggets, at least after the first quarter, and stole a win from the reigning Western Conference finalists, 124-122 in Denver to begin the 2020-21 campaign.
The Kings were playing catch-up for most of the first half thanks to some hot shooting from the Nuggets forwards to start the game. Sacramento got to within two late in the second quarter, but Denver made a push to finish the half up seven.
Instead of losing momentum out of the break, the Kings instead upped the pressure. They immediately reeled off six straight points and finally took the lead with 6:55 to play in the third on a Marvin Bagley III bucket in the paint. In total, the Kings outscored the Nuggets by 12 points in the third quarter. Denver couldn’t keep up with Fox on the break, and the Nuggets couldn’t even keep him in front of them in the half court.
put this possession in the Louvre pic.twitter.com/8ma3hFM1rK— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) December 24, 2020
Down the stretch, as the Nuggets clawed their way back, the Kings were forced to execute like a veteran team. And they turned to two vets, Hield and Barnes, to bring them home. Barnes had a number of controlled drives to the basket to keep pace with Denver in the fourth quarter and in overtime. He finished with 21 points, second only to Hield’s 22. Hield had five of the team’s 10 3-pointers and gave it his all on defense. He stood up Jokic in the post on occasion and had active hands throughout.
This was a high-energy effort from the Kings. The execution was hit-or-miss, but they got the job done and earned their first win of the season. What a rush.