SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 23: De'Aaron Fox #5 of the Sacramento Kings dribbles the ball during the game against the Golden State Warriors during Round One Game Four of the 2023 NBA Playoffs on April 23, 2023 at Chase Center in San Francisco, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)(Noah Graham)

Fox & Murray Catch Fire, But Kings Drop Heartbreaker in Game 4

Fourth-quarter Fox nearly led his team to an improbable comeback in the final minutes, while Sacramento’s rookie broke out with a three-point barrage.

There are few, if any forces in the NBA more dangerous than a Sacramento team captained by De’Aaron Fox and empowered by momentum. In what’s become a running theme in the series, no lead is safe as long as there’s time on the clock, and in a back-and-forth affair where both sides barely had enough time to catch their catch breath, the Kings stormed back with the resiliency they’d demonstrated all season long.

A game of runs came oh-so-close to being defined by one last push from Sacramento, and nearly ended in a dramatic walk-off victory on a Harrison Barnes game-winner. But the veteran’s shot caromed off the back rim, and after surrendering four consecutive Kings points – on a Malik Monk technical free throw and a Fox three-pointer contested by Draymond Green – Golden State escaped by only a single point on its home floor. 

Despite the outcome, Kings head coach Mike Brown was proud of his team for going toe-to-toe with the defending champions and praised its effort even after trailing by double-digits entering the fourth quarter.

“I thought our guys came out with a purpose tonight,” Brown said. “We gave ourselves a chance to win and that's all you can ask for come playoff time […] We had a wide-open look from the three-point line and you couldn’t ask for anything more than that.”

The Kings are both too persistent and too close a match for the Warriors to permit anything less than keeping each game competitive, but curbing mistakes, Brown says, will be what separates the two otherwise evenly-matched squads.

“This is where our playoff inexperience comes into play,” Brown said. “You can’t rest out there, you can’t think that you can do something a certain way and champions aren’t going to make you pay the price. You have to take pride in playing a certain way for 48 minutes.”

With home-court advantage, Golden State’s well-documented road struggles and no question that Sacramento can handle the pressure, even against a mentally and physically tough Warriors team, there’s no sense of panic in the locker room.
“Our confidence isn't down,” said Domantas Sabonis, who finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. “Obviously, it's not the outcome we wanted, but we are going home and we have to take care of business there. It's a long series.”

Rookie Breakout: It was a matter of when, not if, the threes would start falling for Keegan Murray and the floodgates would swing open. The same wide-open looks that weren’t dropping for the Kings rookie in the first three contests were swishing through the net in Game 4 with an air of inevitability to them not felt since the regular season.

“I just tried to be more aggressive throughout the playoffs,” Murray said. “I knew eventually, I’d catch my stride on the offensive end. So it was just a matter of time and I just came in confident, just tried to figure out what they’re doing against me; just tried to figure out how I can get open looks.”

No. 13 entered the day with only one make on eight tries from downtown and 10 total points in 54 minutes, but the Murray who drilled a rookie-record 206 threes on 41-percent shooting, the key cog in the offense who’s comfortable from every spot around the arc, returned with a bang in Game 4.

The even-keeled rookie drilled 5-of-7 from distance and 9-of-13 overall for 23 points, the most by a first-year player in the Sacramento era. He proved defiantly that playoff nerves weren’t a factor, instead validating that the results of the first three games were simply a fluke.

“I thought he stepped up tonight and showed why he’s first-team All-Rookie,” Brown said. “He’s the only rookie in the lottery that’s still playing, and playing a significant role for his team. Tonight, he almost helped us get over the hump.”

Turning Point: Every time the Warriors thought they had an iota of breathing room, the Kings refused to back down, putting pressure on the defense in transition and generating efficient offense with crisp ball movement in the half court.

They did it when Golden State jumped ahead 28-21 on a pull-up jumper from Stephen Curry, netting 20 of the game’s next 25 points. They did again, this time with a 9-2 run, once the Warriors tied the score toward the end of the first half. And they did it one final time, when everyone else in the building thought the game was over with the ball in Curry’s hands, a five-point cushion and less than a minute to go.

Elite Company: Fox scored 38 points for the second time in four games, already joining Chris Webber and Mike Bibby as the third player in the Sacramento era with multiple 30-point playoff outings in a single postseason run. The league’s Clutch Player of the Year put in 12 of those points in the fourth quarter, including seven straight during Sacramento’s late-game rally that nearly catapulted the Kings to an improbable victory.