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Barnes flips switch, puts Kings on his back in clutch OT

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The annual tradition for rookies coming to the Kings is for each young player to receive a backpack on their arrival. Each backpack is usually princess themed and the players are required to wear them for the entire season, including on the road.

On Opening Night, Harrison Barnes made it clear to his teammates that he too can wear a backpack. The veteran forward threw 15 teammates, a coaching staff, ownership and thousands of fans onto his broad shoulders and carried them to victory through a five-minute overtime session.

Barnes has put together some solid performances for Sacramento during his season-plus with the team, but none that resembled what we saw in the Kings’ 124-122 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday.

Through four quarters, Barnes posted 13 points, seven rebounds and five assists. The assist numbers stood out, but his performance was overshadowed by the play of De’Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley, Buddy Hield, Cory Joseph and rookie Tyrese Haliburton.

In overtime, Barnes took his game to a different level. He aggressively attacked the rim, scoring eight of the Kings’ 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting in the five-minute extra frame.

“Harrison made some really big plays down the stretch,” coach Luke Walton said. “I could go through and give everyone a shoutout that played tonight, but we needed everyone's help and it was a good, solid team win.”

After Fox’s huge block in the final seconds, it was Barnes who took the ball from one end to the next and scored in transition.

 

With 6.5 seconds remaining in the game, Barnes once again stepped up to the occasion when he stole the ball from Nikola Jokic, setting off a crazy finish. 

While Barnes had his hammer dunk partially blocked with just seconds remaining, Buddy Hield flew in and tipped the ball in for the win.

“I thought he was going to take his head off,” Hield said of Barnes’ dunk attempt. “I thought he was going to get fouled too.”

The dunk attempt was also out of the norm from Barnes and it caught the eye of his teammates.

“Harrison looked like he was at North Carolina again,” Haliburton said of Barnes’ dunk attempt. “This guy’s tryna cock back and catch a body to win the game.”

RELATED: Fox's clutch block shows he's leader the Kings envisioned

It was a team victory for Sacramento. Each of the nine players that stepped on the court contributed in some way, including monster moments from five or six of the regulars.

The Kings made a heavy investment in Barnes last summer after acquiring him at the 2018-19 trade deadline. He has a knack for filling whatever void the team has, but rarely has he stood out like he did in the overtime session.

It’s one game out of 72, but you have to like the switch that Barnes was able to find. The Kings need more of that type of play from the 28-year-old veteran if they hope to surprise the league this season.