Just when Kings fans thought they had seen it all in De'Aaron Fox's previous fourth-quarter performances, the star point guard took things up a notch in the final minutes of Sacramento's 114-106 win over the Phoenix Suns on Friday at Footprint Center.
The reigning NBA Clutch Player of the Year took over in the desert, pouring in a career-high 23 points in the fourth that ensured the Kings walked away with their 12th win of the season and further making his case for the league's MVP award.
"Shots started going in," Fox told reporters of his red-hot fourth quarter, which came after he had scored just 11 points on 5-of-15 shooting in the previous three. "I think it's really as simple as that.
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"Tried to stay aggressive, teammates getting me open with screens and getting matchups that we liked, and I think it all just came together in that fourth quarter for myself."
For Fox's teammate Domantas Sabonis, the guard's late-game outburst wasn't surprising. Fox found a way to get it done once again in the fourth quarter despite plenty of extra attention from the Suns' defense, Sabonis said, but he also credited the in-game tension for Fox's punishing shot.
"You can't really poke the bear," Sabonis told reporters after the game. "He's going to come out and fight and compete, you know."
Sabonis said a confrontation between the Kings and Jusuf Nurkić early in the fourth quarter "maybe" lit a fire under Fox. The Suns center stood over Keon Ellis following an offensive foul, leading to a brief confrontation where Nurkić, Fox, Malik Monk and Trey Lyles had to be separated. Monk and Nurkić both received technical fouls.
But none of that mattered in Fox's eyes. He told reporters the incident didn't, in fact, light a fire under him.
"I mean, what happened, happened," Fox said. "We just felt like you shouldn't stand over somebody like that, and that's all that was."
Altercations aside, Fox certainly was his usual clutch self as he put his foot on the gas and helped the Kings pull away for the eventual victory. At one point in the fourth, Sacramento's lead had dipped down to just six points as Phoenix looked to mount a comeback.
But Kings coach Mike Brown knew he had the right man for the job on his side.
"He just relishes big moments, and he knew that we needed a big moment from him," Brown told reporters of Fox after the game. "And he just did what he does. I think he's aka Mr. Clutch already, right?
"He showed it tonight."