By Mark Haynes | OBSERVER Correspondent
Hours before tip-off, thousands of Sacramento Kings fans flooded the streets surrounding the Golden 1 Center for Game 1 of the NBA playoffs against the defending champion Golden State Warriors. When the doors to the arena opened, a sea of fans in white t-shirts carrying purple glow sticks were in virtually every seat. The building shook from eager fans cheering as loudly as possible inside and outside the arena.
The environment caught De’Aaron Fox by surprise, just like Kings fans and the rest of the NBA world were shocked by the Kings’ dominance this season. But the team’s success is something Fox saw coming miles — and months — away.
“I would say during the summer, to be honest,” Fox told The Sacramento OBSERVER after the Kings’ thrilling 126-123 win over the Warriors. “Just seeing the guys that we brought in, even going back to the deadline last year. We kind of saw what we had and what we could do. Then getting Malik and Kevin this summer and drafting Keegan, that’s a lot of shooting. That’s a lot of length, and that’s a lot of athleticism. Once I saw the roster that was being built, I thought that we could be really good.”
Fox led all scorers with 38 points in his playoff debut. Malik Monk followed the All-Star, scoring 32 points off the bench. It was the most points scored by a reserve in their playoff debut in NBA history. Monk — who was a college teammate of Fox’s at Kentucky — also shared “Foxie’s” optimism and the huge upside the rest of the NBA world missed.
“I knew early,” Monk explained to the media. “That’s why I came here. I saw the pieces, and I knew we were going to be a sleeper. So that’s another reason I came here, to wake people up, and I think we did that.”
Saturday night’s game was a back-and-forth battle down to the final 30 seconds. Monk’s 14 perfect free throws — including eight down the stretch to seal the victory — and Fox’s liquid nitrogen in his veins allowed him to stick one clutch shot after another to lock up the win that could well determine the winner of this series.
Warriors guard Stephen Curry scored 30 points, and Klay Thompson added 21. Both teams put on a show, so another spectacular performance is anticipated from both sides in Game 2.
The next meeting will be held on Monday at the Golden 1 Center at 7 p.m. PST. The Kings are favored by one point.