Sacramento’s backcourt duo combined for 70 points in a thrilling, come-from-behind playoff victory against the defending-champion Warriors.
Time and again in his playoff introduction, De’Aaron Fox pulled off heroics that few had ever reached and even fewer had topped, gracefully dancing into the paint before stepping backward into soft jumpers, earning trips to the foul line and knocking down back-breaking threes.
By the time the clock ticked to zero, the horn sounded and the crowd erupted into a frenzy, the speedy guard finished with 38 points, the second-most by any player in his postseason debut, and one point shy of tying Peja Stojakovic’s Sacramento-era record.
29 of those points came in the second half, in which the Warriors, not unlike most teams this season, had no answer for Sacramento’s floor general. Fox maneuvered to his sweet spots on the floor and rose to the occasion each time Golden State threatened to pull away, embracing the biggest moments on the biggest stage of his career rather than shying away from them.
“In the fourth quarter and at the end of a game – we talk about this countless times – my teammates are confident in me to go out there and make plays for myself and others,” Fox said. “So the least I can do is go out there and believe in myself.”
It’s one game of what’s setting up to be an exhausting, emotional and dramatic series, but Fox’s postseason heroics in the series opener will undoubtedly endure with those of Mike Bibby’s and Kevin Martin’s in Kings lore.
Difference Maker: Like so many of the scintillating Sixth Men before him, from Bobby Jackson to Hedo Turkoglu, Malik Monk proved why he’s one of most dangerous substitutes in the league. His energy and scoring punch fueled the Kings in the second period, preventing a slim Warriors lead from ballooning to an insurmountable number. The guard came off the bench to score 15 points in the period, the most in a single quarter by a Kings player since 1996-97, on 5-of-6 from the floor.
“His game has evolved so much and I think his game is built for a stage like this,” Fox said. “There’s nothing on the offensive end that he can’t do, so that makes our team that much more dynamic.”
Monk finished with 32 in the game, an NBA record by a reserve in his postseason debut, as well as the highest output by a Kings backup in franchise history. His 14 free throws without a miss also equaled a team record that was last achieved by Peja Stojakvoic in 2001.
If that weren’t enough, Fox and Monk became the first pair of Kings teammates to each score at least 30 points in a playoff game since Bibby and Peja Stojakovic on May 3, 2005.
Turning Point: After falling behind by double-digits at the 3:07 mark of the third quarter, the Kings sprinted to a 15-4 run to regain the lead on a Monk drive to the bucket to close the period.
For all the talk about the Warriors’ experience, their been-there, done-that edge entering the playoffs against the untested Kings, it was Golden State that faltered late beneath the pressure of a Sacramento assault ignited by Fox’s quickness, enforced by Monk’s aggressiveness and fed by fan-driven fervor.
Following a Stephen Curry three-pointer that put Golden State on top with about four minutes left in the final frame, Sacramento rallied back with seven straight points, starting with a triple from Fourth-Quarter Fox, and never surrendered the lead.
Light the Beam: The volume of most playoff games might be considered high, but in Sacramento, what started as a deafening cacophony of cheers and cowbells intensified into an uproar that, for stretches, drowned out the sounds of in-game music and referees’ whistles.
“It was incredible all night,” said Kings forward Harrison Barnes. “When guys ran out for lay-up lines, how loud it got in there, I think everyone got chills. That was pretty special just for us, just to see the excitement that everybody had. I think that guys were just playing off that adrenaline all night.”
The fans’ cheers grew louder as their team’s lead grew bigger, and when Curry’s game-tying attempt bounced off the rim, 18,253 strong collectively leapt from their seats to match the magnitude of one of Sacramento’s greatest moments in many years.
Hours later, “Light the Beam” chants continued to reverberate in the DOCO plaza, a celebration that signified how much playoff basketball was missed by and how much it means to the city of Sacramento.
“Our fans were off the charts,” said Kings head coach Mike Brown. “It was deafening in there. It was extremely loud, so you have to take your hat off to them because they brought it for us tonight. You could feel the energy … We’re going to need them to be there for us, night in and night out, because it’s not easy. It’s a long journey and we just have to keep taking it one step at a time. We need everyone behind us in Sacramento, which I feel we definitely have.”