COLUMBUS — Guard Malik Monk of the Sacramento Kings wasn’t shocked. Coach of the Kings, Mike Brown, was also aware that it would go in. Chicago Bulls supporters inside the United Center could be heard yelling an impatient “No!” after All-Star player De’Aaron Fox elevated over Ayo Dosunmu for a potential game-winning 3-pointer on Wednesday night. This is probably because they had already seen the movie.
Fox hit a three-pointer with four seconds remaining and the score tied at 114 apiece to lead Sacramento to their 41st victory of the year and give the Kings their first record of.500 or higher since 2006.
The victory required a comeback after the Kings trailed by 16 points in the first half, but Fox’s late-game heroics, which also included a mid-range jumper that appeared to have sealed the Kings’ victory, were the evening’s high point. Sacramento needed to rely on its clutch King again, and he came through when the Bulls tied the score in the waning seconds with some of their own clutch plays.
Monk, who had a clear view of Fox’s 3-pointer while patiently watching what his old University of Kentucky teammate would do, wasn’t at all startled by Fox’s most recent clutch performance.
Monk said after the game, “I’m going to keep saying it guy, I’m not surprised. “Since I’ve known him for a while, I am aware of his intentions. I had the most faith in him. Fox just being Fox.”
“Just Fox being Fox,” is a familiar response from Kings players and coaches who have witnessed Fox’s crucial efforts up close and personal all season long. Fox currently holds the NBA record for most clutch points, which are those made in the final five minutes of a game when the score is within five points. The remarkable element, though, is not that Fox tops that category, but rather how far ahead of everyone else in that statistic he is. DeMar DeRozan and Jimmy Butler, who each have 138 points this season, are the next closest rivals to Fox’s 180 points in crucial situations. The widest difference between the top two clutch scorers in the previous 15 years, according to researcher Doug Clawson, was when LeBron James outscored Kobe Bryant by 104 points in the 2007-2008 season.
Player clutch stats 2022-23
|PLAYER||TOTAL CLUTCH POINTS||CLUTCH FG%||CLUTCH TEAM RECORD|
When Brown took over as Sacramento’s head coach this past summer, he wasn’t prepared for Fox’s clutchness, which has become standard among Kings players and coaches at this stage in the season.
Brown stated, “It was one of the things that I didn’t know how he would be consistently in the clutch when I got the job.
But, since seeing it play out, Brown has vocally advocated for Fox to be named to an All-NBA squad and has referred to him as the league’s most clutch player.
Fox should most definitely be considered for the All-NBA teams, but we’ll have to wait and see how they come together. Fox, though, is a lock to earn the first Jerry West Clutch Player of the Year award due to his dominance in the crucial moments. No one has ever been as reliable towards the conclusion of games as he has been, and what’s even more impressive is the variety of ways he’s scoring these points.
Since Fox is regarded as the league’s fastest guard, he can easily slip by any opponent that stands in his way thanks to his lightning-fast speed. When that occurs, he has excellent control around the rim and finishes at a 78% rate, which is not just a career-high but also the greatest percentage for a guard this season. Throughout the course of his career, his mid-range game has gradually improved to the point where he’s now making 50% of those attempts, which places him in the 91st percentile.
The only questionable aspect of his offensive game is how effectively he makes 3-pointers, but so far in March, he’s been shooting 37% from beyond the arc. When you combine all of that, it makes sense why he would act so dangerously when the game was on the line.
Ironically, Fox has struggled shooting 3-pointers, and two of his game-winning jumpers this season have done so, including the one against the Bulls. The other was a carefree 35-foot attempt made in November when against the Orlando Magic:
Fox possesses the offensive tools necessary to break down almost any defense. But, there are many players in the league with diversified offensive styles who haven’t shown to be as deadly as Fox when the game is on the line. What distinguishes him from the competition then? If you ask Brown, he will emphasize Fox’s non-statistically measurable qualities as well as his basketball knowledge.
“His presence, composure, demeanor, whatever you want to call it, has just been outstanding down the stretch of games, especially one possession games,” Brown said of his All-Star guard. “To no one’s detriment, but I simply had the impression that the shot was going in as he walked into that three. And that has nothing to do with me because all we did was order everyone to move out of the way. He simply oozes confidence during that phase of the game and has demonstrated play after play that he is capable of carrying out his assignment.”
With the trend of Fox hitting all of his game-winning shots on the road this season, there is undoubtedly some importance behind that. Fox praises his teammates and coaches for giving him the confidence he needed in such situations.
If someone has ever asked me whether I’d rather hit a game-winning home run or a road game-winner, I’d always respond, “I’d much rather do it on the road,” Fox said. “But, that’s just the way I am as a person. I’d rather silence the crowd than let it kind of grow heated. calm, not raucous. I enjoy doing it while driving.”
Sacramento has the sixth-best clutch victory percentage, whether playing at home or on the road, according to Fox. The league ought to already be inking Fox’s name on the Clutch Player of the Year trophy, even though other individual accolades might be decided by the outcome of the final regular-season game. And if he can continue to dominate through the playoffs, Fox’s opponents would best hope he doesn’t have the ball in his hands when the game is on the line.