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De’Aaron Fox completed a dazzling playoff debut that was years in the making and needed more work done.
With the home crowd counting down following a spirited return to the postseason, Fox pressed the button and lit the ceremonial beam, marking a 17-season upset for Sacramento.
“Sacramento showed up tonight,” Fox said. “But doing it for the fans, knowing the way they support this team through thick and thin — really thin. It’s a testament to what they are.”
Fox was the biggest cause for celebration as he scored 38 points, the second-highest scoring playoff debut in NBA history, to lead the Kings to a 126-123 victory over the defending champion Golden State Warriors on Saturday night.
Fox scored 29 points in the second half, then regained playoff fitness and hit a 3-pointer that gave Sacramento the lead in the fourth quarter.
It took him his sixth straight season to reach the postseason, but only Luka Doncic had more points in his playoff debut with 42 three years earlier, declaring himself a star.
Kings coach Mike Brown said, “You need guys like that on your side because they know we’re throwing at them. “There are no secrets. You’ve got to have guys on your team that can make plays, and Foxy went and made plays tonight.”
The first playoff meeting between the Northern California neighbors since 2006 entertained a raucous crowd that had been waiting for a postseason game.
The inexperienced Kings finished strong against a Warriors team that had won four titles in the previous eight seasons.
After Stephen Curry hit a corner 3-pointer to give Golden State a 114-112 lead with about four minutes remaining, the Kings responded with seven in a row, starting with Fox’s 3-pointer.
The Warriors didn’t go away, and Curry cut the deficit with a layup in the final minute. But Andrew Wiggins missed a corner 3 to take the lead in the closing seconds of his first game in more than two months.
Malik Monk made two free throws to make it 126-123 with 2.9 seconds left and Curry missed a runner from the 3 at the buzzer, giving the Kings their first playoff win since April 30, 2006, against the San Antonio Spurs.
Monk finished with 32 points.
It was a festive atmosphere in win-starved Sacramento, where fans gathered outside the arena hours before the Kings’ first playoff game since an NBA-record 16-year drought.
The arena was deafening in pregame warmups as some fans brought back the cowbells that were so common during the Kings’ playoff runs two decades ago.
“It was unbelievable all night,” Harrison Barnes said. “When the guys ran out to the lay-up lines, it was as loud as it came in, and I think everybody got chills.”
The excitement turned on the inexperienced Kings, who struggled to shoot the ball early. Sacramento shot 39.2% in the first half and trailed Golden State 61-55 at halftime.
After the Warriors built a 10-point lead in the third quarter, Sacramento went on a 15-4 run to end the quarter, fueled by 10 points from Trey Lyles to make it 91-90 in the fourth, rousing the crowd.
“Our fans are off the charts,” Brown said. “It’s pretty deafening in there. So you have to take your hat off to them because they brought it.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.