De’Aaron Fox carries Kings to 102-94 victory over Knicks
NEW YORK (AP) — With an afternoon start that felt like morning to them, the Sacramento Kings weren’t sharp when their game began.
De’Aaron Fox made sure they were fine at the finish.
Fox had 30 points and eight assists, carrying the Kings down the stretch to a 102-94 victory over the New York Knicks on Saturday in the opener of a four-game trip.
Fox scored 12 points in the final six minutes after the Knicks had erased a 12-point deficit to take a two-point lead.
“At the end of the game, once you see something’s working you kind of keep going back to it, keep going to it, keep going to it, and I think that’s what we did,” Fox said.
Buddy Hield added 19 points for the Kings, who need a strong performance during their trip to the East after entering play four games behind San Antonio for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Dennis Smith Jr. scored 18 points for the Knicks but was hit with a technical foul for his reaction to getting bumped from behind by Nemanja Bjelica after a basket with the Knicks down two and 2:12 left.
“It was a dead ball and he came up and pushed me. I retaliated and got us a tech,” Smith said. “I shouldn’t have done it and they knocked down the free throw. It changed the game a little bit.”
DeAndre Jordan added 14 points and 15 rebounds in the Knicks’ fifth straight loss.
“We missed like six point-blank layups uncontested at the rim, and we just can’t afford that to win games,” coach David Fizdale said.
It was tied in the third before Hield scored five straight points to start a 12-0 run to finish the period and make it 80-68.
New York rallied to an 89-87 lead midway through the fourth after an 11-0 burst, but Fox made five of Sacramento’s final six baskets, including a pair of three-point plays.
The noon local start was a challenge for both teams, with Sacramento coach Dave Joerger noting that meant 9 a.m. back home for his players, and the Knicks just back from a trip to the West. He rubbed his eyes before the game to demonstrate that it could be two tired teams on the floor.
The Knicks had the energy early, racing to leads of 7-0 and 24-9. Sacramento cut it to 30-23 by the end of the first quarter, then limited New York to 16 points in the second to grab a 48-46 edge.
“I thought our bigs, especially in the second half, were terrific,” Joerger said. “They’re not going to get the credit for the numbers, but they ran really hard and opened up the opportunities for guys like Buddy and De’Aaron in transition.”
Kings: Bjelica had 13 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. … The Kings have won three in a row against the Knicks.
Knicks: New York goes right back on the road for three games in the Midwest, starting Sunday at Minnesota. … Fizdale said G Frank Ntilikina (sore groin) had intensified his workouts but still hadn’t progressed to the point of taking contact in practice. … F Noah Vonleh missed the game with a bruised right hip.
FUN AND RUN
The Kings have become a team that’s fun to watch, with an exciting style of a play and a top-10 offense in a number of categories. They play at the league’s fastest pace, leading the league with 21.3 fast-break points per game.
“It does feel good because we’re not where we’re going to be, we’re not where we want to be, but we sure are having fun,” Joerger said. “We’re developing players and guys are getting along great and it’s just a really good vibe, and the city of Sacramento’s on fire right now and we’re having a great time.”
ALL ABOUT THE TEAM
Fizdale said a challenge for a Knicks team with nine players whose contracts will be expiring is getting them to concern themselves with only team success and not their own statistics.
While he praised the players for how they’ve handled it, he did say the trust issues could help explain the Knicks’ league-low average of 19.9 assists per game.
“That definitely creeps in,” he said, “but I don’t think it’s necessarily guys are just, ‘I’m going to get mine.’ I just think it’s like when things get tight, a team really gets into us, I think it’s more guys saying, ‘Hey, I’m capable of doing this and I’m going to show it,’ and a lot of times that gets us to where we start holding the ball and taking tough shots.”
Kings: Visit Washington on Monday.
Knicks: Visit Minnesota on Sunday.