Fox, Monk Combine For 70 Points In Kings Game 1 Win Over Warriors

You couldn’t have written a better script for the return of playoff basketball to California’s capital city.

By sactownsports on April 17, 2023

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 15: Malik Monk #0 of the Sacramento Kings celebrates making a three-pointer against the Golden State Warriors during the fourth quarter in Game One of the Western Conference First Round Playoffs at the Golden 1 Center on April 15, 2023 in Sacramento, 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 the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Loren Elliott/Getty Images)

You couldn’t have written a better script for the return of playoff basketball to California’s capital city.

With a deafening sellout crowd at Golden 1 Center making its presence known in front of a national audience, the Sacramento Kings made a triumphant return to the NBA Playoffs by defeating the defending champion Golden State Warriors by a final of 126-123 on Saturday night.

It was the franchise’s first postseason appearance in 17 years, and Kings fans were ready to go hours before tip-off as thousands of fans gathered around the Golden 1 Center and Downtown Commons area to celebrate the official end of the playoff drought.

Sacramento finished the season with a record of 48-34, good enough for a Pacific Division title and a third-seed spot in the Western Conference side of the NBA Playoff bracket.

While it seemed as if the Kings pulled the short stick by having to face Golden State in the first round, it was the Warriors who departed Game 1 facing an 0-1 series deficit.

Golden State forced Sacramento to play a different style instead of its usual dribble-hand-off-oriented offense, and they did so thanks to pick-and-roll play between Domantas Sabonis and the speedy backcourt of Fox and Monk.

While there is still much to be determined in this seven-game series, Sacramento made a statement on Saturday night. This team isn’t just happy with a playoff berth. They want more, and they aren’t going to roll over against anybody.

Here are some takeaways and notes from the Kings’ Game 1 win over the defending champions.

Historic Debuts for The Kentucky Duo

If you didn’t know by now, De’Aaron Fox’s performance on Saturday hammered in the fact that he is built for the big moment.

In the first NBA Playoff performance of his career, Fox finished the night with 38 points on 13-of-27 shooting from the field and four-of-eight shooting from three-point land. The first-year All-Star struggled to get looks during the first half as the Warriors continued to roll out double-teams, but Fox broke through during the second half.

Fox took over during the second half, scoring 14 points in the third quarter and 15 points in the fourth while also knocking down all four of his triples during the final 24 minutes of play.

On a night that Sacramento struggled to convert the long ball during the first half, Fox’s contributions from beyond the arc helped change the game’s momentum thanks to a go-ahead triple with less than five minutes to go.

Fox, who is the favorite to take home the NBA’s inaugural Clutch Player of the Year award, continued to act as the league’s top closer but did so this time on a playoff stage. The 25-year-old’s teammates aren’t surprised to see more late-game heroics, playoff stage or not.

“I knew he was going to turn it on in the second half after he got adjusted,” Monk said of Fox, who scored just nine points on 33 percent shooting during the first half. “He’s been doing it all year.”

“That’s who he is,” Harrison Barnes said of Fox’s closing heroics. “He steps up in big moments. He’s been doing it all season for us.”

Fox’s 38-point debut was the second-highest-scoring NBA Playoff debut in league history, only trailing Luka Doncic (42 points in 2020).

While Fox’s contributions were crucial in taking home the win, it was his college teammate in Monk that helped weather Sacramento’s rough first-half shooting performance. Monk scored 15 of his 32 points during the second quarter to keep the Kings within striking distance at the break.

Once the game entered the fourth quarter, Monk joined forces with his Kentucky running mat in Fox to put the finishing touches on the victory. Monk scored 13 points in the fourth quarter to cap off a historical performance, as the guard broke the NBA record for most points scored by a reserve in a postseason debut.

Monk’s 32 points on eight-of-13 shooting broke Ben Gordon’s record of 30 points that was set in 2005.

“His game has evolved so much,” Fox said of Monk’s huge night. “His game is built for a game like this.”

Confidence is critical in Monk’s game, and once he starts seeing the ball go through the net, the light becomes permanently green. Head coach Mike Brown told the media that he was encouraged by Monk’s confidence, adding that the guard won’t shy away from the moment when the lights are bright.

“Malik is a confident individual,” Brown said of Monk during his postgame press conference. “You can feel that when you are around him. He isn’t afraid of the moment.”

Fox and Monk aren’t new to these opportunities. They’ve gone from closing games at the college level to the even more prominent stage of the NBA Playoffs. On a night when the word “culture” was an appropriate topic of discussion, you can tell that this team cares about putting the Kings back on the map.

“That was why I came here,” Monk said. “To change the culture with my homie.”

Kings Make Winning Adjustments

Sacramento’s deadly offense wasn’t itself during the first half.

The Kings shot 39 percent from the field and 25 percent from three-point range during the first half as the Warriors took a six-point lead into the break.

Once the page turned to the third quarter, shots started to fall thanks to Fox, Monk, and Trey Lyles.

Lyles’ third quarter helped jumpstart the Kings’ offense, as the forward scored 10 of his 16 points during the third quarter (two-of-three shooting from three-point land).

The Kings converted eight of its 16 attempts from three-point land during the second half, with Fox, Lyles, and Monk combining for seven of those made triples.

Thanks to Sacramento’s improved shooting, the Kings were able to erase Golden State’s 10-point lead in the third by ending the period on a 10-2 run.

Winning the Curry-less Minutes

Saturday’s game might have been won during the end of the third quarter.

With two-time MVP Stephen Curry on the sideline, the Kings mounted a 23-11 run that erased a 10-point Warriors lead and put Sacramento in front by one point heading into the fourth.

While Curry finished the night with 30 points and made six three-pointers, the Kings took advantage of the five Curry-less minutes near the end of the third period.

Sacramento held Golden State to four points during the final three minutes of the third, and those minutes without Curry were not salvageable in the end.

A Night for the Books

The atmosphere at Golden 1 Center was better than expected.

Fans were outside of the arena more than three hours before tip-off. Thousands of fans flooded into L and K streets to take part in the festivities around DOCO. Banners reading ‘Light The Beam’ were dropped over the balcony of Punch Bowl Social, and cowbells were constantly ringing throughout the pregame celebration.

Once the Golden 1 Center doors opened, fans were in their seats and starting cheers with an hour to go before starting lineups were set to take place. When the Kings exited the tunnel for pregame warmups, a packed house went nuts as the players filed into their layup lines.

“Sacramento showed out tonight,” Fox said of the atmosphere. “Trey [Lyles] walked by me and said that this is the loudest arena that he’s every played in. It was definitely a great atmosphere tonight.”

“How loud it got during the layup line, we got chills,” Harrison Barnes added.

It was a special night for Kings fans, one that won’t be forgotten any time soon. The best part? We get to do it again on Monday.

Upcoming Sacramento Kings Schedule

NBA Western Conference Playoffs – First Round

  • Monday, April 17th – Game 2: Sacramento Kings vs. Golden State Warriors – 7:00 PM PST
  • Thursday, April 20th – Game 3: Sacramento Kings @ Golden State Warriors – 7:00 PM PST
  • Sunday, April 23rd – Game 4: Sacramento Kings @ Golden State Warriors – 12:30 PM PST
  • Wednesday, April 26th – Game 5**: Sacramento Kings vs. Golden State Warriors – TBD
  • Friday, April 28th – Game 6**: Sacramento Kings @ Golden State Warriors – TBD
  • Sunday, April 30th – Game 7**: Sacramento Kings vs. Golden State Warriors – TBD

**If necessary

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