SACRAMENTO – De’Aaron Fox returned from a right ankle injury Monday night and helped the Kings run past the Cleveland Cavaliers 132-120 at Golden 1 Center.
Fox missed the last five games after sustaining a moderate ankle sprain in Sacramento’s overtime win against the Los Angeles Lakers on Oct. 29. The Kings went 2-3 during his absence.
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One of those wins was a huge victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night – arguably the team’s best win of the young 2023-24 NBA season.
Before Fox’s injury, he was averaging 31.3 points on 48.6 percent shooting, with 4.3 rebounds and 6.0 assists in the first three games of the season.
In his first game in two weeks, Fox finished with a game-high 28 points on 11-of-20 shooting from the field and 2 of 6 from behind the 3-point line.
But even with their star player back in the mix, Monday’s game set up as a tough task for the Kings. With four-time All-Star Donovan Mitchell in town, the Cavaliers presented a big – literally and figuratively – problem for Sacramento.
The Kings embraced the challenge, though, and came out on top.
Here are the takeaways from the Kings’ win that pushes their record to 5-4.
Back like he never left
It had been five games and 14 days since Fox last was on the court with the Kings for a game.
But on Monday, it was as if he had never left.
Fox wore some high-top shoes for extra ankle support, but other than his kicks, it was business as usual for the All-Star point guard.
So it was only right that the very first play of the game was, of course, a Fox bucket.
Fox led the way with 28 points on 11 of 20 shooting, along with two rebounds, six assists and one steal in 36 minutes.
The big question
When Fox went down with the injury, a rare opportunity arose for several players. Who would step up in his absence? Davion Mitchell? Malik Monk?
While Brown chose to start Mitchell for the first three games without Fox, he switched things up during the final two contests, turning to two-way player Keon Ellis for the starting gig after an impressive showing in “garbage minutes” of Sacramento’s frustrating 122-97 loss to the Houston Rockets.
Ellis started in the Kings’ win over the Portland Trail Blazers and Friday’s victory over the Thunder. But even with Mitchell coming off the bench again in those games, he didn’t let it discourage him and still displayed confidence on both ends of the floor. Ellis, however, was extra-impressive and made the most of his opportunity, especially defensively.
But with Fox back, Brown was presented with another difficult decision. Who would back up Fox and run the point when the All-NBA guard needs a break? On Monday, Brown went with Ellis, who played 12 minutes with two points, two assists and one block.
Mitchell, for the first time since Dec. 16 of last year, registered a DNP (Did Not Play).
It doesn’t have to mean anything crazy for the Kings. Brown isn't scared to shake things up and play with different rotations, so that’s all this could be. Nonetheless, Brown certainly is sending a message to the team.
A 3-point party
After running the best offense in NBA history last season, the Kings hadn't quite shot the ball to their standards this season.
That changed Monday.
Shots were flying -- and falling -- all night for the Kings from behind the arc. Sacramento made 20 treys in the win. The franchise record is 23, which the Kings accomplished last season.
The Kings shot 20 of 42 (47.6 percent) from 3-point range and 49 of 83 (59 percent) from the field.
Kevin Huerter got hot in the second half, finishing with 20 points and six 3s. Keegan Murray added five treys, and Monk and Sasha Vezenkov added three each off the bench.
While they didn't break their team record from downtown, the Kings showed glimpses of last year's historic offense. And if they can keep things going, there will be plenty of opportunities to do so.