De'Aaron Fox statistically isn't the Kings' best free-throw shooter, but he's more than capable of stepping to the line and knocking down a majority of his shots.
The fifth-year pro entered the Kings' game against the Charlotte Hornets at Spectrum Center on Friday night as a 74 percent shooter from the free-throw line this season and he was 8-for-8 when he toed the line after Hornets wing Cody Martin inexplicably fouled Fox with 2.4 seconds left in regulation and Sacramento trailing by one point. Charlotte didn't have a foul to give in that situation and it could have been a disaster for the Hornets.
The odds were in Fox's favor that he would make at least one, if not both, to either send the game to overtime or give the Kings a one-point lead.
Instead, Fox, who finished with a game-high 31 points, missed both free throws and after a failed attempt to tip the ball in before the final buzzer sounded, the Kings lost 124-123 to a shorthanded Hornets team.
"I know he thought they had a foul go give," Fox said after the game. "Actually, I just made two right before that, so I knew they didn't have a foul to give and I didn't think they'd foul. But yeah, when he fouled me, in my head, I'm thinking 'Going to make these two and get out of here.' But I back-rimmed the first one. The second one, I just didn't want to back-rim it and I short-armed it."
The Kings had their best player on the line with a chance to win their fourth straight game before a meeting with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday. Instead, they fell to 11-15 on the season, and Fox knows he let one slip away.
"Very disappointed because I wanted the ball in my hands," Fox said. "Like I said before, they took the foul and you want to punish a team for making a mistake like that. Like I said, I missed them. There's nothing I can do about it now."
Both Kings interim coach Alvin Gentry and big man Marvin Bagley III emphasized that Fox's missed free throws can't be blamed for the loss in Buzz City.
"The way I look at it, the missed free throws aren't the reason we lost the game," Gentry said. "He played at a very high level. I like the way he has attacked the last three, four games. He's been very aggressive. I think he's done a great job for us. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter. It's really tough to win on the road in this league. We gave ourselves an opportunity and we just let it slip away. It just slipped away on us."
Bagley has been teammates with Fox for the last four seasons and he knows what the dynamic point guard can do.
"He's capable of making free throws," Bagley said. "That wasn't the reason we were in that position in the first place. There was a lot of things throughout the whole game that we could have done better to prevent ourselves from being in that position. I've been as tough on him but at the same time, I know he can make those and the rest of the team knows he's capable of making free throws, so just the next-play mentality. We've got one tomorrow and we just got to try to come out and get that one."
Fox hasn't had the start to the 2021-22 NBA season that he and everyone else expected. But he has scored at least 30 points in back-to-back games for the first time this season, so the tide could be turning for the leader of the Kings.
For as good as Fox has been over the last two games, the two missed free throws will leave a bitter taste in his mouth. The good news for him is that he has a chance for redemption Saturday in Cleveland.