SACRAMENTO -- Looking for the Kings first win of the season, De’Aaron Fox tried to single-handedly beat the Utah Jazz on Friday at Golden 1 Center. And then he tried a different approach.
With 58 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Fox made a move to the hoop on Donovan Mitchell. Lurking behind the Jazz’s star guard was a 7-foot-2 shadow waiting to send Fox’s shot into the second row.
Fox accelerated, pulling Utah’s two best players into the center of the lane and then he calmly dropped the ball back to a wide open Dewayne Dedmon, who gave the Kings a three-point lead.
DEDMON FOR👌🏾 pic.twitter.com/U40jpP8eQi— Kings on NBCS (@NBCSKings) November 2, 2019
Dedmon came into the evening 2-of-11 from behind the arc. He had also missed his first five 3-point attempts on the night.
“It means a lot,” Dedmon told NBC Sports California following the Kings' 102-101 victory. “He had a hell of a game tonight, getting to the rim, finding the open man when your man was helping. He had a really good game tonight.”
Utah wasn’t done. Rudy Gobert hammered down an alley-oop from Mitchell to bring the Jazz within two with 43.2 seconds remaining. Fox missed a 10-foot jumper with 21.8 remaining, which opened the door for Mitchell to give the Jazz the lead back with 11.2 seconds remaining.
Needing a basket to retake the lead, Fox went into attack mode one more time. Although he had an opportunity to force a shot up near the rim against Mitchell and Gobert again, he fired a pass to an open Nemanja Bjelica in the corner.
The veteran forward, who had hit 3-of-5 from long range before that moment, caught rim, but the chaos of Fox’s drive put the Jazz’s defenders out of position. Harrison Barnes slid into the lane, grabbed the rebound and gave the Kings the one-point lead with just 2.9 seconds remaining.
Barnes with the game winning shot 🙌🏾 pic.twitter.com/qlIEXGvRUx— Kings on NBCS (@NBCSKings) November 2, 2019
It was a big development for Fox. In the span of a minute, twice he chose to be unselfish and make the right play.
“I trust those guys,” Fox told NBC Sports California following then game. “I feel like even though I was the one commanding the offense, I still have a duty to make the right play basically. Getting in the lane isn’t always for me. So I try to find the open guy and DD hit a big shot and Belly was open. I feel like that’s the right play.”
These are the moments the Kings need if they are going to climb out of the hole that was created by five straight losses to start the season.
These are also the types of moments that Fox needs if he is going to take that magical next step into stardom.
“Whether he's turning the ball over, missing shots, making plays - that's what we want to see,” coach Luke Walton said. “That's what I was really pushing for in those final couple of minutes was - let’s give him space, let’s let him create for himself or others and continue to grow him as a closer.”
Fox finished the evening with a team-high 25 points on 8-of-17 shooting from the field and 9-for-12 from the free throw line. He added four assists, five rebounds and a steal in 37 minutes of play.
“Mentality wise, I thought from the jump ball tonight, he was in that attack mode that we’re looking for,” Walton added.
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More importantly than any of the numbers, Fox helped his team earn a much needed first victory of the season after a disastrous start.
The Kings take their show on the road beginning Sunday in New York City. They’ll face the Knicks, Raptors and Hawks over the next week, before returning home to Golden 1 Center to face the Portland Trail Blazers on Nov. 12.