Point guard De’Aaron Fox is only in his fifth season yet has emerged as a veteran voice for the ascending Sacramento Kings.
The Kings aim for their third straight victory on Sunday when they play host to the Indiana Pacers, who opened a four-game road trip with a 110-106 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday.
Sacramento turned in its best performance of the young season Friday, when it made a franchise-record 22 3-pointers in a 140-110 win over the Charlotte Hornets.
Center Richaun Holmes recorded the first 20-20 game of his career with 23 points and a career-best 20 rebounds for Sacramento, which is looking to end a 15-year playoff drought.
Buddy Hield made eight 3-pointers and had 26 points while Fox contributed 21 points and nine assists.
After averaging 25.2 points last season, Fox no longer has to do everything for an improved Kings squad. The Kings had seven players score in double figures on Friday as Fox finished with 21 points and nine assists.
“We know what De’Aaron’s capable of,” Sacramento coach Luke Walton said. “And we don’t need him to carry the load as much like we did in the previous years. We want it to be more of how it was tonight. We also know he’s somebody that can calm the waters when things start to get rough like he’s playing like he has the last couple nights.”
The Kings are 5-4 heading into their matchup against Indiana, which saw its brief two-game winning streak come to an end Friday.
Starting guard Malcolm Brogdon, who leads the Pacers with 22.3 points per game, missed Friday’s contest due to a non-COVID illness. T.J. McConnell started in place of Brogdon and had 19 points with seven rebounds.
Health has been a major issue for the 3-7 Pacers, who hope to have forward T.J. Warren (foot surgery) back in the next 1-2 months.
Forward Caris LeVert, who missed the start of the season with a stress fracture in his back, is averaging 16 points in four games.
The Pacers have also received a spark from rookie guard Chris Duarte, who has started all 10 games. The Oregon product is averaging 16.1 points while shooting 44.3 percent from the field and 42.4 percent from 3-point range.
“I really like our team. I think we have a lot of talent on this team, but we don’t have the kind of talent to win on talent alone,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “I mean, we’ve got to really be tied together. And our compete level has got to be way up there.”
Indiana has lost its last two meetings against Sacramento, whose crowded backcourt includes rookie Davion Mitchell. The Kings’ ninth overall pick has been as good as advertised early, averaging 10.6 points and providing a strong defensive presence off the bench.
Mitchell has served as a perfect complement to second-year guard Tyrese Haliburton, who is averaging 13.2 points and 5.4 assists.
“I want (Haliburton’s) personality imprinted on our team. He is that type of guy,” Walton said. “I don’t even care if he makes mistakes right now. If he wants to call his own play coming off the free throw line, call it. The more that he can share who he is with the identity of our team, the better we’re going to be.”