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De'Aaron Fox gives Kings another clutch performance. Quietly, he hoped to stay benched

Golden State Warriors' Nick Young, center, drives between Sacramento Kings' Willie Cauley-Stein (00) and De'Aaron Fox, right, Friday, March 16, 2018, in Oakland.
Golden State Warriors' Nick Young, center, drives between Sacramento Kings' Willie Cauley-Stein (00) and De'Aaron Fox, right, Friday, March 16, 2018, in Oakland. AP

For De’Aaron Fox, Friday’s 98-93 win over the Golden State Warriors boiled down to a three-minute game.

That’s because he did his best to forget the first 45 minutes.

After missing all five of his shots and going scoreless through three quarters, Fox was ready to watch Frank Mason III finish the game.

But with 3:43 left to play and the score tied at 85-85, Kings coach Dave Joerger put Fox in.

“Just before that I’m thinking, ‘I’m hoping they don’t put me back in this game,’" Fox said, "and he did.”

Fox hit a 13-foot floater with 2:40 to play to bring the Kings within 90-89. Fox then nailed a 20-foot pullup jumper with 1:32 to play to give the Kings a 91-90 advantage. He then pushed the lead to 93-90 with an 8-foot jumper with 59.1 seconds to play and the Kings held on for the win.

Fox has proven during his rookie season he’s comfortable making plays late in games. He did so Wednesday when he forced overtime at the buzzer in a win against the Miami Heat. Fox also has game-winning shots against Philadelphia and at Miami earlier this season.

What made Friday different was Fox was struggling mightily, and he knew it.

“Sometime you struggle in the first half and come out in the second half and play a little bit better,” Fox said. “And even into that third quarter I wasn’t able to get it going.”

Once Joerger did what Fox hoped he wouldn’t do and put him back in, the rookie guard tried to think of it as a new game.

Once Fox made a shot, “everything just kind of rolled from there,” he said.

“For myself, when I went back in the game, I just a had different pep to my step,” Fox said. “I went into the game with a different type of swag than I had at the beginning of the game, the whole game. Just that little reset in my mind, I thought of the last three minutes as a whole new game. I was able to finish it out strong.”

The Kings (23-47) needed all of that swag, because up until that point, it was Golden State guard Quinn Cook who was playing with confidence, on his way to a career-high 25 points. Cook started for injured guard Stephen Curry (ankle), one of Golden State’s three injured All-Stars. Kevin Durant (ribs) and Klay Thompson (fractured right thumb) were also out.

Fox said Cook’s performance didn't affect his confidence.

“I wouldn’t say it’s tougher when the other guy is scoring,” Fox said. “I’m not really thinking about what they’re doing. I know he had a helluva game, and in the fourth quarter I just tried to make it tough.”

Sacramento played better defense in the second half, and Buddy Hield had one of his best all-around games of the season.

Hield finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and matched his career high with seven assists.

The injuries left the Warriors (52-17) with one All-Star, Draymond Green. He had 14 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.

The win also means the Kings went 2-0 at Oracle this season. The Warriors won at Golden 1 Center earlier this season, and they return March 31.

“To get two wins (at Oracle) in the same season is a feather in these guys’ hats,” Joerger said. “I’m really proud of them for that and the way they’ve competed and practiced all year long.”

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