WASHINGTON: De’Aaron Fox scored 38 points and Malik Monk added 32 off the bench in leading the Sacramento Kings to a 126-123 victory over Golden State for their first NBA playoff triumph in 17 years. The Kings, who had not reached the post-season since 2006, seized a 1-0 lead over the defending champions in a Western Conference best-of-seven first round series that continues in Sacramento on Monday. In Eastern Conference playoff series openers on Saturday, the New York Knicks edged host Cleveland 101-97, Boston routed Atlanta 112-99 and Philadelphia beat Brooklyn 121-101.
Fox made 13-of-27 shots in his playoff debut, 4-of-8 from 3-point range, and 8-of-12 free throws then after the victory pushed the button to send the Kings’ laser light — symbolic of a Kings victory — from the outside of the arena. Monk sank 8-of-13 from the floor and 2-of-4 from 3-point range plus all 14 of his free throws. He made two late free throws to create the final margin and Stephen Curry missed a final 3-point shot for the Warriors to force overtime. Reserve Trey Lyles added 16 points and NBA rebounds leader Domantas Sabonis had 12 points and 16 rebounds for Sacramento. “Our bench came in and they did a hell of a job tonight, especially Malik and Trey.
They ignited us,” Fox said. “We knew we had to go out and be physical — try not to foul because this is probably the best free throw shooting team in the league — and get it done on the defensive end and we got some key stops.” Fox caught fire in the second half and Sacramento used a late 7-0 run for a 119-114 lead that put the hosts ahead to stay. “In the second half, I got into a rhythm, my teammates continued to hit me in my spot and I just did what they want me to do,” Fox said. Curry led Golden State with 30 points while Klay Thompson added 21. At Cleveland, Jalen Brunson scored 21 of his 27 points in the second half to lead New York’s victory while the Cavaliers were led by 38 points from Donovan Mitchell.
A late Brunson miss was rebounded by New York’s Julius Randle, who had 19 points and 10 rebounds, and that set up two clinching Knicks free throws by Quentin Grimes. “They just kept fighting,” Brunson said. “We kept our composure. Made plays down the stretch, made a couple of huge stops. We just kept fighting, kept sticking together and stayed poised.” NBA scoring champion Joel Embiid had 26 points while NBA assists champion James Harden added 23 points and 13 assists in the Sixers’ romp. The host Sixers, who led the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage, sank a club playoff record 21 3-pointers in 43 attempts. “(That) was a good win for us,” Harden said.
“We’ll be watching film. Game two is going to be the toughest game of the series for us. We’ll be ready to go.” Cameroonian star Embiid went 7-of-15 from the floor and 11-of-11 from the free throw line. ‘Keep pushing’ Harden hit 7-of-13 from 3-point range and helped eight Sixers in all make 3-pointers. “Just finding ways to impact the game possession by possession,” said Harden, a former Nets backcourt star. “It’s the playoffs. Things don’t go the way you want as much as you want them to. You’ve got to keep pushing, keep fighting, and I’m happy we got a win.” Philadelphia made a club one-half playoff record of 13 3-pointers on the way to a 67-58 halftime edge.
Brooklyn’s Mikal Bridges scored a game-high 30 points, but only seven in the second half. The Celtics ripped visiting Atlanta 112-99 behind 29 points and 12 rebounds from Jaylen Brown and 25 points and 11 rebounds from Jayson Tatum. Brown played with a wrapping on cut fingers and a protective mask he has had for two months due to a facial fracture. “Got to come out and be ready to go,” he said. “My team depends on me. My city depends on me. I don’t make no excuses. I come out and play ball.” – AFP