De’Aaron Fox has made a living early in his NBA career with the chase down block. For a guard, he has an incredible ability to erase space and clear shots away at the rim.
During the Kings’ overtime win over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, Fox put up a solid 21-point, seven-assist performance, but it was his defensive play in overtime that changed the outcome of the game.
“The game is over if De’Aaron Fox doesn’t make that block,” coach Luke Walton said. “That’s your best player going out and doing something that lets you have a chance to win a game. That was incredible, I’m looking forward to watching it on tape.”
With the Kings trailing 122-120 with 13.2 seconds remaining in the game, Fox got caught up in a Nikola Jokic screen at the top of the key, which allowed his man, Will Barton, to splash to the rim on a back cut.
“The first thing I was trying to do was get a steal,” Fox said. “I kinda overplayed it, he back-doored and Jokic set him a screen. And when I saw how slow he was going, I knew I could catch up.”
Fox shook off the pick and flew straight to the basket, where he came away with the defensive play of the night.
“That’s the type of disruption we want defensively from him,” Walton said. “We feel like he’s such a fantastic athlete and he has such good instincts, that we want him kinda defending like a gambler.”
Fox swatted the ball off the backboard and the rebound landed in the hands of Harrison Barnes who took the ball coast-to-coast and tied the game at 122-122.
It was a dramatic shift in events that ultimately proved to turn the tide for the Kings. Sacramento got another defensive stop moments later, which led to a game-winning tip-in by Buddy Hield as time expired.
“A lot of winning in the NBA comes down to who’s willing to make those types of plays down the stretch of games,” Walton said.
Fox quickly is becoming the leader of the Kings. He signed a massive five-year, $163 million extension to stick around in Sacramento and he’s starting to take ownership of the team.
It’s only one win, but this is the type of play the Kings need from Fox and others if they hope to get off to a fast start on the season and potentially snap the franchise’s 14-year playoff drought.