The Sacramento Kings climbed closer to the .500 mark with their recent 5-1 stretch and are inching closer to the No. 8 seed.
Sacramento returned home from its 3-1 road trip and beat the Boston Celtics 116-111 at the Golden 1 Center.
The road trip’s final stop was a matchup in New Orleans against Zion Williamson and the Pelicans. The Kings kept pace in the first half and trailed 62-60 at the break.
New Orleans extended its lead over Sacramento after outplaying the Kings in the third quarter. The Pelicans took a seven-point lead into the final quarter and looked to be on their way to a victory, but Sacramento had other ideas.
The Kings would close the deficit and trailed 100-98 with just under eight minutes remaining. That’s when De’Aaron Fox took over.
Fox hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key that capped off a 14-3 run by Sacramento to give the Kings a one-point lead.
This was just the beginning.
Fox scored the Kings’ next basket with a beautiful step-back jumper over Eric Bledsoe, whose defense was about as good as you can ask for.
The point guard followed that up with a sweet lay-in that put Sacramento up by three. New Orleans would re-take the lead after buckets by Willy Hernangomez and Josh Hart.
But Fox wouldn’t let his team fold. He hit a finger roll that put the Kings up 107-106. Fox followed that up with a pair of free throws that extended the lead to three points.
Then, he pulled off this gorgeous move to give Sacramento a five-point advantage.
Fox would then score back-to-back baskets that put the game away for good. He wound up accounting for 17 consecutive Sacramento points in 6:34 and finished the game with 38 points, 12 dimes and four rebounds. He wound up outscoring the Pelicans 17-15 on his own over the final 12 minutes.
After the game, Fox stayed humble and showed the leadership skills he possesses:
“Just trying to do whatever it takes to put us on top and sometimes it’s hitting another gear in the fourth (quarter),” Fox said. “When it’s time to make plays, you’ve got to be ready.”
Fox is beginning to show his All-Star potential this season. He has put the team on his back on a few occasions and is making plays only a select few NBA players are capable of. Sacramento needed someone to step up to get a win in New Orleans and its best player delivered.
He spoke about the game with the Kings’ social media team following the win.
Fox followed that up with another tremendous fourth quarter showing when he scored 16 of his 24 points over the final 12 minutes in the win over the Celtics.
The Kings will go as far as Fox can take them. He was on the cusp of becoming an All-Star coming into the season and has shown he is capable of being the best player on a playoff team.
WHAT DID WE LEARN ABOUT THE KINGS DURING THEIR 5-1 STRETCH?
The team is capable of defending at a higher level.
Although Sacramento is giving up the second-most points out of any NBA team, it looked much better during the road-trip.
The team gave up 108.3 points per game to opponents over that six-game run, 10.5 points less than their season average.
Richaun Holmes has been improving as a rim protector and finished with six blocks in the win over the Pelicans. The Kings are doing a better job of challenging shooters, and their rotations have continued to improve as the season has gone on.
We are also seeing rookie Tyrese Haliburton become more comfortable playing in the NBA. The 20-year-old has been one of the best rookies in the league and was rewarded for his efforts by being named the NBA’s Rookie of the Month for December and January.
Haliburton averaged 11.2 points, 5.8 assists and 3.9 rebounds during the month of January. His arrival has given head coach Luke Walton another playmaker behind Fox who is capable of running the offense.
The rookie’s shooting has stood out. Haliburton is shooting 42.3 from the 3-point line, best on the team despite the presence of nominal shooters like Buddy Hield and Glenn Robinson III.
Haliburton’s arrival will help speed up the rebuild. Don’t be surprised to see him among the favorites to capture the NBA’s Rookie of the Year Award at the conclusion of the season.
What other moments stood out for your from the Kings’ four-game road trip? How confident are you in Haliburton’s chances to win Rookie of the Year? Let us know in the comments below!
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