CHARLOTTE, NC – A confident De’Aaron Fox crossed the foul line for two shots with 2.4 seconds left and his team behind by one.
After making his first eight free throws of the game, Fox said he thought “I’m going to do those two and we’re going to get out of here” with a win.
Then the unthinkable happened.
A 74.1% free throw shooter entering the game, Fox sent the first shot from the back edge, the crowd shouting and waving their hands in an attempt to distract him. They got stronger on the next try, and Fox tried to overcompensate for the first miss by taking something away from his second shot. The ball bounced off the front rim.
Marvin Bagley III attempted a tip-in, but he didn’t fall, and the Charlotte Hornets escaped with a savage 124-123 victory over Sacramento on Friday night, ending the Kings’ three-game winning streak.
“I’m very disappointed because I wanted the ball in my hands,” said Fox, who finished with a record 31 points – including two free throws to tie the game with 20.2 seconds left. “They were at fault and you want to punish a team for making such a mistake. But I missed them and there is nothing I can do about it now.
Rookie James Bouknight, the 11th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, posted a career-high 24 of six 3-pointers leading the Hornets, who ended a three-game losing streak. Miles Bridges added 23 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, and Kelly Oubre had 22 points. The Hornets have eliminated seven players due to illness and NBA health and safety protocols.
Fox’s misfires capped a crazy 5.5-second final. With the game tied and the shot clock stopped, the Hornets were looking for a shot.
However, a frenzied final possession turned into what appeared to be one and one after Cody Martin performed a reverse layup at the baseline. But Kings coach Alvin Gentry challenged the game and won, and the basket was called off. Martin went to the line for two shots – missing the first and hitting the second.
Then Martin made a critical mental error, fouling Fox near midfield as he brought the ball back to the ground with 2.4 seconds left.
“I was just trying to be too aggressive and I have to learn from that,” said Martin.
Martin said he knew the Kings were in the bonus and didn’t intentionally try to foul Fox, thinking the Hornets had a foul to give.
“The basketball gods were with us tonight,” said Martin.
Gentry said the team wouldn’t have been in this position without “Foxy (DeAaron Fox) and the way he’s played up to this point.”
“It is a loss that is difficult for us to take, but we have to take it and move on.”
For Bouknight, Friday had been a long time coming.
He hasn’t seen much playing time since being drafted, largely because of how well Martin has played. But he said he remained confident and continued to focus in training without lowering himself.
Before the game, Bouknight told Hornets coach James Borrego, “I’m ready.
“Miles Bridges told me all year that my time was coming – and tonight it happened,” said Bouknight, who finished 6th on 8 at 3 points.
Borrego said after that game he was the most proud of a team after a win since moving to Charlotte four years ago.
“Just the resilience of this team, to never give in, the fighting, the persistence and just the membership of this group is just right, I love this group,” Borrego said. “They never give up. We’ve had seven of our top 10 rotational players and these guys in this locker room deserve all the credit. They fought until the last second and they deserve all the credit.
Learn more about hornets
NBA Power Rankings: Warriors, Suns Continue To Set The Bar Three Things To Know: Chris Paul Has Seemingly Unstoppable Suns In The Clutch Watch Dominant Embiid Scoring Season 43 High, 76ers Beat Hornets In OT
Watch The Kings’ De’Aaron Fox miss two free throws with 2.4 left to give the Hornets the win, originally appeared on NBCSports.com