De’Aaron Fox helped snap the Kings’ NBA-record 17-year playoff drought last season as the Western Conference’s No. 3 seed.
Sacramento’s playoff hopes ended sooner than the team expected, losing to Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors in the first round after an epic seven-game series.
Still, Fox believes it was a “blessing” to play against an experience-rich team like the Warriors in his first taste of playoff action.
“So just being able to play against them and understand, playing against them … you kind of understand what it’s like and how hard it actually is to win in this league,” Fox told Cassidy Hubbarth on Sunday’s episode of “Hoop Streams.” “And it being my first playoffs and a couple of guys on our team’s first playoffs, it was great for us to experience that.
“And I think Game 7, just the greatness Steph had, Kevon [Looney] obviously had a big game, I think that kind of was a testament to their experience and, like I said, the greatness of Steph.”
After playing the defending champion Warriors tough for six games, the Kings — playing at home in Golden 1 Center — hoped Golden State’s troubles on the road would surface.
However, Curry and the rest of the Warriors’ championship pedigree emerged instead.
Curry went off for a then-NBA record 50-point outburst while Looney grabbed 21 rebounds in the Kings’ 120-100 loss. Fox’s backcourt mate Kevin Huerter pinpointed what went wrong for the young Kings’ squad on that fateful day.
“In the fourth quarter, I think what broke our spirit, like as they continued to make shots — tough shots — we weren’t making the ones that we were used to making and we were turning the ball over,” Huerter said Thursday on an episode of “The Old Man and the Three.” “And so it was like we wanted it so bad, especially in that fourth quarter trying to make a run, and not shooting well and it was like, ‘Alright, at some point, we’re going to see one go down, we’re going to get a turnover and go on a mini run.’ It just never happened.”
Even though the season didn’t end the way anyone in the Kings’ organization thought it would, Fox believes that facing Golden State still imparted valuable lessons Sacramento can take moving forward.
“You take everything you learn playing against them and being in the playoffs and just understand how physical it is and I think that was the biggest part for us that kind of forced us to struggle a little bit,” Fox continued. “We had guys who usually made shots and didn’t make shots, so once you’re playing against that and you kind of figure out how to beat it, then I just think it makes everything else a whole lot easier.
“So for us, we take that and we hit the ground running into next year and hopefully, it makes the regular season a bit easier for us and then when we get to whenever our next playoff series is, we can take what we learned and establish it there.”
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With Kings coach Mike Brown challenging Fox at every juncture to help him become one of the NBA’s elite players, the sky is the limit for Sacramento.
And despite losing in the first round, the Kings’ matchup was a blessing in disguise in more ways than expected.