De'Aaron Fox pushes Kings from brink of defeat to comeback road win

De'Aaron Fox pushes Kings from brink of defeat to comeback road win

DALLAS -- With 5:04 remaining in the fourth quarter and his Kings trailing by five points Tuesday night, coach Dave Joerger sent three of his starters back into the game and hoped for the best.

Center Willie Cauley-Stein and forward Harrison Barnes both had solid games coming into the fourth, but in the last five minutes, it was all De'Aaron Fox.

The sophomore point guard turned on the jets, running right at the heart of the Dallas Mavericks' defense. He hit floaters. He hit layups. He got to the free-throw line.

“You’ve just got to be in attack mode, just try to keep going to the rim,” Fox said. “When we got stops, we were able to run back at them.”

After scoring 11 points through the first three quarters, Fox hit Dallas with a 12-point outburst in the closing minutes to lead the Kings to a 125-121 win at American Airlines Center.

“We have a lot of guys in here that want to take that big shot," Fox said. "We were able to do it today. We knocked it down, but you’ve got to have that confidence, you’ve got to have the guts to be able to shine in those moments.”

It was like a switch was flipped. After letting the refs know his displeasure with the lack of whistles early, the 21-year-old turned up the intensity late. For stretches, he looked like a man possessed.

“Man, he’s so talented, he’s so fast, too fast,” Joerger said. “He got very competitive. He felt like he was driving earlier and not getting to the foul line. He put a little extra juice in it coming down the stretch. You see the competitor that he is.”

Fox finished the night with 23 points, eight assists and five rebounds. His final rebound came off his own missed shot and led to another basket that helped seal the Kings' win.

There was an aggression in Fox’s game that he shows in flashes. As he gets stronger and more mature as a player, it’s likely that we'll see more of this version.

“He’s going to come back next year a lot stronger than he was this year, just like he came back a lot stronger than he was the year before,” Cauley-Stein said. “He’s growing into his body, and it’s going to make his finishing a lot more crazy. I don’t know what people are going to do when he can muscle them.”

The Kings haven’t been eliminated from the playoffs quite yet, but it’s close. They would need a miracle to make it to the postseason -- they're 5 1/2 games out of the final playoff spot with eight to play -- so their focus now is on finishing the right way.

[RELATED: How Kings not drafting Doncic shows trust in Fox]

“We’re trying to win as many games as we can before the season ends,” Fox said. “You just try to take that momentum into next season.”

The 37-37 Kings would like to get to the 41-win mark and cement a .500 record for the first time since the 2005-06 season. It won’t be easy. Not only do the Kings have a handful of difficult games, but they're grouped together oddly without much of a break.

Blazers' Damian Lillard vouches for play-in tournament when NBA resumes

Blazers' Damian Lillard vouches for play-in tournament when NBA resumes

It remains unclear and unknown when or how the NBA season will resume. The Kings, currently 28-36 and on the outside looking in of the playoff picture, are awaiting word on if and when their season will continue.

One thing is clear, though: Damian Lillard won't play games amid the coronavirus pandemic if his Portland Trail Blazers aren't given a true shot at the playoffs. 

"If we come back and they're just like, 'We're adding a few games to finish the regular season,' and they're throwing us out there for meaningless games and we don't have a true opportunity to get into the playoffs, I'm going to be with my team because I'm a part of the team," Lillard said to Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes. "But I'm not going to be participating. I'm telling you that right now.

"If we come back and I don't have an opportunity to make the playoffs, I will show up to work, I'll be at practice and I'll be with my team. I'm going to do all that and then I'm going to be sitting right on that bench during the games.

The Blazers have played 66 games so far this season. Lillard refuses to be a part of a ploy to get to 70 games, which is the minimum to fulfill regional television deals. But if there's a chance to win a ring, he's all-in.

"If they come back and say it's something like a tournament, play-in style, between the No. 7 and No. 12 seeds, if we're playing for playoff spots, then I think that's perfect," Lillard said.

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

There are a number of ways the NBA can go to continue the season. Will all teams be involved? Will there be a play-in tournament that Lillard suggested, or a 16-team tournament regardless of conferences? What about the teams on the outside looking in?

That includes Portland and the Kings. The Blazers (29-37) currently are the No. 9 seed in the Western Conference, percentage points ahead of the Kings (28-36).

Sacramento hasn't made the playoffs since the 2005-06 season. Circumstances be damned, the Kings would love a crack at the postseason.

[RELATED: How NBA's Orlando scenarios impact Kings' playoff hopes]

The Kings are 2-2 against Lillard and the Blazers this season, and last played Portland on March 7 when Bogdan Bogdanovic's 27 points led Sacramento to a 123-111 win on the road.

All remains a mystery right now. The only way Lillard is playing games, however, is if they can compete for a championship. It's easy to see other players around the league sharing his same feelings, too.

Kings' 10 best NBA draft picks since team moved to Sacramento in 1985

Kings' 10 best NBA draft picks since team moved to Sacramento in 1985

Two weeks ago we looked at 10 of the biggest blunders in Sacramento Kings draft history. There were plenty to choose from over the 35 years the team has been in Sacramento, but it hasn’t been all bad for the Kings.

Despite having poor luck in the NBA draft lottery, the Kings have mined for talent and come up huge a few times during their three and half decades in Sacramento.

In no particular order, here is a look at 10 of the biggest draft successes during the Sacramento era of Kings basketball.


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