No. 0 shook off a slow start to score 20-plus points off the bench for the second time in the series, while De’Aaron Fox showed no ill effects from a finger injury.
The fourth quarter is usually time for the Clutch Player of the Year to jam his foot on the gas pedal, but when his former Wildcats teammate caught fire late in the second half, De’Aaron Fox dialed back his game and deferred to Malik Monk.
Scoreless with under four minutes left in the third quarter, Monk erupted for 21 points the rest of the way – 14 in the final frame – demoralizing the Warriors with his relentless pursuit of the rim, and on a night where the Kings were off target from the perimeter, drilling a momentum-shifting three as part of a 13-2 Kings run.
Despite a scary collision under the basket, No. 0 stayed in the lineup and continued to give the Warriors all they could handle, presenting issues for Golden State’s interior defense with acrobatic lay-ups in traffic and dump-off passes to Sacramento’s big men. The microwave scorer’s 91 points off the bench are the most in a five-game span by a Kings reserve in franchise history.
Monk, Fox and Davion Mitchell helped bring Sacramento to within a single basket in crunch time, but Golden State maintained its advantage on the scoreboard until the final horn, flexing their defensive chops and showing off their offensive firepower.
“Even though we cut it down to two, they still kept their composure and still ran their stuff,” Mitchell said. “That’s a really good team; give credit to them.”
With the Kings facing elimination for the first time, head coach Mike Brown expects his team to respond with season-on-the-line resilience in Game 6.
“We’ve been great when our backs have been against the wall all season, so I don’t see it being any different,” Brown said. “Our guys know what’s at stake and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
No Doubt: The Kings wondrous point guard was deemed “doubtful” to go earlier in the week, but Fox not only played through the pain in his fractured finger and the discomfort of the splint taped around it, but he also produced another exceptional all-around performance.
Fox showed no visible ill effects from the injury early on, finding the bottom of the net on his first three shots from behind the arc, and while his outside stroke later waned, he still found a way to get into the paint with his quickness, muscle and guile. No. 5 produced 24 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and two steals in a team-high 42 minutes.
“I was fine,” Fox said regarding his injury. “I think at times, I had good looks that just didn’t go in. I think they played a good game defensively. They had their hands on a lot of balls, a lot of deflections, a lot of blocked shots. They did a good job in the second half defensively.”
Rookie Roller Coaster: Keegan Murray has been implored to ramp up his aggressiveness as a scorer by his coaches and teammates, and the rookie, picking up right where he left off in Game 4, responded by netting 10 of Sacramento's first 19 points on Wednesday. But despite playing 35 minutes, Murray wasn’t heard from in the second half; his only field goal attempt came on Sacramento’s final possession of the night.
“I think it was the flow of the game, but at the same time, we have to get him more shots,” Fox said. “He’s one of the better shooters in the league … we have to help him get open.”
Key Stat: The Kings set a franchise record for threes made in a quarter with eight on 12 tries in the first, but the deep-shooting barrage wouldn’t last. Outside-accuracy problems plagued Sacramento once again over the next 36 minutes, during which Sacramento hoisted 23 shots from long range but made just two.
Entering Game 5, Sacramento ranked fifth in three-point attempts (38.0) but 14th in percentage (30.3) among the 16 playoff teams, a nearly six-point drop from its output during the regular season (36.9 percent). And despite generating not just plenty of good looks, but the most wide-open shots from behind the arc – 21 per contest – in the postseason, the Kings made only 31 percent of them.
Turning Point: Golden State has been most vulnerable during Stephen Curry’s minutes on the bench, but when the Warriors star sat at the 5:39 mark of the second quarter, Klay Thompson drilled three consecutive triples. A three-point play by Draymond Green capped a 12-0 run, flipping a six-point Kings lead into a six-point deficit in just under three minutes.
Mitchell made it clear that the Kings, fully aware of the stakes, need to reduce defensive breakdowns, become the aggressors from the opening tip, and reach a higher gear that they haven't yet reached to avoid falling to the defending champions.
“It’s kind of like desperation; win or go home,” he said. “Just like how we were up 2-0 and they did a really good job of coming out strong, hitting us in the mouth in Game 3, and they kind of took that [game] over, we have to have the same mindset coming in.”