De’Aaron Fox is becoming a star in the Orlando bubble, but in order for his team to start winning games, someone else had to step up and give him some help. On Thursday, Bogdan Bogdanovic was that player, scoring a career-high 35 points to help the Kings pick up their first win of the seeding tournament.
In a recent recording of the Purple Talk podcast, Fox mentioned his starting backcourt mate and made a statement that may have struck a chord with the Serbian shooter.
“Sometimes, the player that Bogi is, for him to be a team-first guy, is for him to shoot the ball,” Fox said.
There can be an issue with a player being too unselfish. Bogdanovic is a career 37 percent shooter from long range and one of the more versatile scorers on the Kings’ roster, but he rarely looks for his own shot.
He tries to get everyone else involved and then once the game has settled into a rhythm, he looks to get free himself. Fox has struggled with this issue as well, but since the NBA’s restart, he has gone into attack mode.
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Bogdanovic followed Fox’s lead Thursday, which led to the 140-125 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
After missing his first 14 shots in the Kings' loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday, Bogdanovic looked like a man possessed against New Orleans. He started firing away in the first quarter and by the time the first 12 minutes were up, his shooting hand was smoldering.
“I was just maybe a little bit more mentally locked in,” Bogdanovic said. “Before the game against Dallas, I did all of the same things I did today. I didn’t change my routine at all.”
Bogdanovic lit up New Orleans for 19 first-quarter points. The only shot he missed in the opening period was a 50-footer as time expired.
With Bogdanovic on fire, New Orleans made adjustments and the Kings countered. First, they got Harrison Barnes loose in the post. When the Pelicans shifted defensive stalwart Jrue Holiday over to slow Bogdanovic down, he went to Fox and told him to attack.
“Whenever I was open, I was decisive, I took my shot, I scored, I didn’t miss my first couple of shots,” Bogdanovic said. “And then they started trapping me and I saw a lot of space for the big guys and tell them, ‘Hey, now it’s your time.’ And then I told Fox, ‘Hey, Holiday is on me, he’s stop blocking, he’s not helping, so you have all the space now, it’s your time.’ That’s how he got hot.”
Bogdanovic was a flame thrower and once Fox started attacking, it was lights out. The starting backcourt for the Kings pinned 65 points on the Pelicans in their best-combined scoring output of the season.
“We know we have a lot of guys on this team that can put the ball in the basket,” Fox said. “But when you have guys like that and they care about each other, it makes the game easier for others.”
An experienced European player, Bogdanovic helped play coach on the floor. Playing within a team concept is how he learned the game and he’s doing his best to share as much as he can with his teammates.
The Kings' road to a playoff spot is narrow to say the least, but they had to have the win over the Pelicans to keep any hope alive.
“You’ve got to step up as a man and play the game,” Bogdanovic said. “That’s what we did.”
The Kings don’t have a lot of time to celebrate the victory. They jump back into the fray Friday morning when they play the Brooklyn Nets in their lone back-to-back of the tournament.
While the Kings likely will scoreboard watch all day to see what happens to teams like the Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers, the focus must remain on the things they can control.
“We can’t worry about anyone by ourselves,” Fox said. “Knowing that we got this win, it throws us right back in contention for one of the last playoff spots.”
The Kings now are halfway through their schedule in the bubble. Following the Nets, they’ll face the Houston Rockets, the Pelicans for a second time and then finish off their seasons against the first-place Los Angeles Lakers.