NBA Film Study: How De’Aaron Fox Led Kings To Game 1 Win vs. Warriors

Fox, Sacramento Kings, NBA News
NBA Analysis Network

In their first NBA playoff game over 16 years, De’Aaron Fox and the Sacramento Kings took down the reigning champion Golden State Warriors in their 126-123 victory in Game 1. Fox led the way with 38 points while shooting 13-27 from the floor, 4-8 from deep, and 8-12 on free throws.

“You need guys like that on your side because they know everything that we’re throwing at them,” Kings coach Mike Brown said. “There’s no secrets. You have to have guys on your team that can go make plays, and Foxy went and made plays tonight.”

Part of what makes Fox such a particular player is that he dictates the game’s tempo in ways almost only he can. When he sees an opportunity to turn on the afterburners, he can catch the defense on its heels to either get to the rim, draw a foul, or create an open look for a teammate.

With Fox’s speed, the Warriors must be intentional about getting back on defense and building a wall to prevent him from getting to the rim easily. It also carries into Golden State’s approach in the half-court, having to be more conservative with ball screen coverages, especially with the Kings having more than enough shooting firepower to make them pay for overloading the strong side.

NBA NEWS & PLAYOFFS COVERAGE: De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings & Golden State Warriors Updates

Fox is enough of a problem in the open floor, but the Kings have ways of making teams pay for favoring containing him over accounting for his teammates. There were a few possessions that Sacramento had put maximum pressure on the defense by pushing the pace with Fox’s speed, then setting up a shooter with no shortage of time to work with before knocking it down.

The Warriors struggled to contain Fox when deploying drop coverage due to Fox’s patient approach and floater touch. If he cannot get to the rim on the initial attack, he knows he can get into his floater in short-range to make the defense pay for giving him a gap to work with. There just isn’t much of a choice otherwise due to his explosiveness. Expect to see more double teams as the series goes along.

As previously mentioned, an issue the Warriors’ defense faces is the limitation they have when attempting to pre-rotate the low-man (or overload the strong side). Fox’s ability to get to the rim and make plays out of short-range naturally get teams to try to load up in the paint, but the Warriors do tend to do this against most top players. Fox can exploit it to create a spray-out passing chance for a clean look, particularly to the corner.

NBA NEWS & PLAYOFFS COVERAGE: De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings & Golden State Warriors Updates

There was a possession utilizing double drag that stood out from Fox in Game 1. He drew Jordan Poole on a switch and after seeing the Warriors’ pre-rotating the low-man, he went into a quick post-up to force the defense to make commitments. With the corner being left unattended in order to stay in position to play Fox’s attack, he made the pass to his open teammate.

As the series progresses, the Warriors tend to reduce disadvantageous matchups against the opposition’s top players. One matchup they must find a way to reduce is allowing Donte DiVincenzo to get caught and trying to contain Fox at the point of attack. The likely option would be to start Andrew Wiggins and to make this his assignment.

With Fox’s off-the-dribble jumpers falling at a high clip, he was able to counter Wiggins during a possession he was the primary defender. After Wiggins attempted to top-lock before the Kings got into a Zoom action, Wiggins prevented the Kings from getting him switched off Fox. Even after a ghost screen from Kevin Huerter came, Wiggins stayed attached. Fox had a lot of room to work with, setting up his hesitation crossover into a step-back mid-range jumper.

When the Warriors want to shut someone’s water off that has it going, they like to deploy Draymond Green to muck things up. Fox had little issue breaking him down off the dribble with his patient approach and shifty ball handling at the point of attack, leading to favorable shot-creation sequences. Again, Fox’s jumper falling at a strong clip is vital.

A theme that’s clear by now is that one of the main factors in Fox’s career that have either held him back or fueled him to reach crazy heights is the execution of his jump shot. He made the Warriors pay numerous times in clutch time for daring him to let it fly. The first occurred when Wiggins went under a ball screen to favor playing the drive, giving up an open, walk-in look for Fox from deep.

NBA NEWS & PLAYOFFS COVERAGE: De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings & Golden State Warriors Updates

With how taxing it can be to keep up with the Kings throughout games, Fox is savvy at reading and dialing up passes to his big man, Domantas Sabonis, when the opposing big doesn’t get back on defense quickly enough. By the time the game had reached the more pivotal moments, Looney was too tired to go stride for stride with Sabonis, giving up an emphatic dunk in transition.

Another matchup the Warriors need to keep at a minimum is having Klay Thompson picking up Fox. After involving both Sabonis and Huerter as screeners in the initial action, Fox had Thompson fully committed to guarding him by navigating any screen attempting to force a switch. That was no problem for Fox. He retreated back out to the 3-point line before breaking down Thompson and getting to the free throw line. Golden State will need to close out games with Wiggins taking this assignment.

After Curry pushed the Warriors back into the lead with a corner 3, the Kings stayed aggressive in pushing the pace to create some early offense. While it wasn’t Fox initiating the action, he benefitted from Monk exploding into the lane and making a spray-out pass to the weak-side corner, leading to an open catch-and-shoot look for Fox from the wing. Sacramento regained the lead due to another made triple from their superstar.

Fox was later fouled when Curry attempted to contain him from turning the corner in a hedge-and-recover sequence, which sent him to the free throw line. He split the attempts, but his teammate — Monk — delivered down the stretch with a perfect trip to the line to put the Kings up 126-123 with 2.2 seconds remaining in regulation. The game was a wrap as a result.

NBA NEWS & PLAYOFFS COVERAGE: De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings & Golden State Warriors Updates

It will be fascinating to see how consistent Fox’s jumper will fall throughout this series. If he can continue to knock down shots when the series naturally involves Wiggins and Green guarding him more frequently, it would give the Kings a strong outlook to advance to the second round. It will be challenging for Golden State to handle his explosiveness. How Sacramento leverages it with half-court creativity will be something to monitor.

“Sacramento showed out tonight,” Fox said. “But doing this for the fans, just knowing the way that they support this team through thick and thin — really thin. It’s just a testament to the way they are.”

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