It is becoming increasingly likely that the NBA will play more games in the 2019-20 season (though what that means for the Sacramento Kings is unclear), but it is also always an excellent time to revisit the top plays of the season.
ESPN picked a favorite play for each team in 2019-20, and unsurprisingly, they landed on De’Aaron Fox’s putback on his incredibly artful missed free throw against Minnesota to tie the game, which the Kings eventually won in overtime.
As with most great plays, I love to watch the opposing bench’s reaction, and “stunned” doesn’t even begin to describe the looks on the Timberwolves’ faces.
The play itself is remarkable in that Fox was able to successfully execute an intentionally-missed free throw. It so rarely happens. He then got to the rim with almost a clean lane to lay the ball in; the Minnesota players are so concerned with boxing out the Kings at the edge of the paint that they cleared a path for Fox inadvertently.
The moment takes on an entirely different level of difficulty because the Kings were down 17 points with 2:49 to play. Aykis previously laid out the long odds the team faced and the historic significance of the comeback.
Considering the stakes and the sheer implausibility of what Fox accomplished, it’s hard to fault the decision ESPN made. It’s just not every day you see someone do what Fox did (though Tre Jones managed to a couple weeks later).
As long as we’re on the topic of favorite plays, here are a few others which stand out from the 2019-20 Kings season thus far.
Nemanja Bjelica’s buzzer-beater against Houston
While I was scrolling through the ESPN piece, this is the play I expected to see in the Sacramento section. With all due respect to Fox, the Kings never should have been in that position against the Wolves. But beating the Rockets, on the road, on the type of shot that team lives for (seriously, Bjelica would be a phenomenal Rocket Launcher) carries greater significance. Bjelica’s shot isn’t as cool as Fox’s, but it was momentous. Listening back to the call is also hilarious because I have no idea what Doug Christie, but he is for damn sure enjoying himself.
Defensive stand against Denver
Let’s show some love for the other side of the court, otherwise known as the reason why Cory Joseph was brought to Sacramento. The Kings scrapped throughout the entire game, rallying from multiple double-digit deficits to put themselves in position to win down the stretch. On the final play of regulation, they needed a stop to extend the game, and the combination of Jospeh and Richaun Holmes delivered. Joseph applied the pressure on Jamal Murray throughout the possession, and Holmes came in for the exclamation point. The celebration is awesome, too, because you can tell a young team wants some defensive plaudits every now and then.
A Harry Giles two-fer
Not an important game in the grand scheme of things, but the sound Harry Giles makes when he stuffs Shaq Harrison is legitimately the auditory encapsulation of disrespect. It’s so powerful and vicious. The Bulls bench even stands up afterwards, which can likely be couched as expressing concern for their fallen teammate; in real time, however, it suggests they too are equally impressed with Giles’ feat.
This lob is probably my personal favorite because it’s the only play on the list I saw in person. As a longtime Giles apologist, I am always rooting for him to showcase the potential he had coming out of high school. His game against the Clippers in a Kings win was an encapsulation of what Giles does best, his activity paying dividends on both ends of the floor, punctuated by a jam to extend the team’s winning streak against one of the top teams in the league. Watching Giles and the Kings execute in a close game against a contender was a joy.
Harrison Barnes silences the Jazz
I love an end-of-game possession where the coach doesn’t call timeout and the team has to go full court. There are so many more options, and as Christie notes on the broadcast, speed becomes a real asset. Fox’s ability to get end-to-end on the basketball court in the blink of an eye and still retain control is a skill few others in the league possess. When the Kings harness that frenetic pace, they become so much harder to keep up with.
This play is also great because it’s a total team effort: the shooters space the floor for Fox, Bjelica lets it fly with enough time for a second chance, and Barnes cleans up the miss. Another win against a top-tier team in the West, and another incredible moment for the Kings.
What was your favorite play of the Kings season? Did ESPN get this pick right? Let us know.