SACRAMENTO -- Buddy Hield. De’Aaron Fox. Bogdan Bogdanovic. Skal Labissiere.
The Sacramento Kings have a collection of young players who have hit game-winners. Add Willie Cauley-Stein to that list.
With 16.6 seconds remaining and the Kings trailing 110-109, De’Aaron Fox made a move to the hoop. He pulled up in the middle of the lane and tossed up a floater that, at first look, appeared on line.
The ball bounced off the front rim and into the hands of the Kings’ crashing center.
“I was just trying to drive, Myles (Turner) came over to help,” Fox said. “I left it short and Willie was in a perfect position. That’s what he does. He’s always in the right spot.”
Cauley-Stein came out of nowhere for an emphatic two-handed slam to give Sacramento a one-point lead with 16.1 seconds remaining.
“I need this. We need this. We need this win,” Cauley-Stein said following the game. “I was locked in on it.”
The game didn’t end there. Indiana’s Bojan Bogdanovic got an open look from 17-feet. The shot rimmed out and Buddy Hield grabbed the rebound.
“At the end of the game, we were able to get the stops that we needed, Willie made a big play and we got another stop, that’s basically all it comes down to,” Fox said. “When we’re able to buckle down and get stops when we need them, we put ourselves in pretty good shape.”
For a moment, the game appeared to be over, but the officiating crew of Scott Foster, Ben Taylor and Jonathan Sterling went to the replay and called for a jump ball between Hield and former King Darren Collison with 1.3 seconds remaining.
Collison won the tip, and even had time to toss up a shot at the buzzer that bounced off the rim and fell out. Once again, the officials convened at the scorers table and awarded the possession to Sacramento. By rule, Collison wasn’t allowed to be the first Pacers' player to touch the ball because he was involved with the tip.
The Kings successfully inbounded the ball and came away with the narrow 111-110 win.
For Cauley-Stein, this was his first career game-winner, but he wasn’t the only one smiling after the game. The locker room was lively when media was allowed in. Players were laughing and celebrating a hard-fought battle.
“Anytime you get a win, it relieves all the pressure,” Cauley-Stein said. “A win saves lives.”
With the win, the Kings snapped their first three-game losing streak of the season and moved back to .500 at 11-11. It’s a nice momentum boost heading into their four-game road trip beginning Tuesday in Phoenix.