Barnes’ buzzer-beater sparks joy, surging Kings’ playoff push originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
SACRAMENTO — In a season like no other, there are moments that will never feel right.
The Kings’ wild 100-98 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night at Golden 1 Center was filled with them.
When De’Aaron Fox drove the lane, took a hit and flipped a shot into the basket to tie the game with 6.2 seconds remaining, a packed house would have lost their minds.
When Fox dropped in the free throw to give the Kings a 97-96 lead, fans would have still been high-fiving complete strangers in the aisles and likely missed Collin Sexton sprinting the court for a stunning play that was called for goaltending and gave the Cavs a 98-97 lead.
The murmurs in the stands would have been crazy as the officiating crew viewed the monitor to confirm the call and tried to figure out how much time was on the clock, as well as which players should have been on the court.
The nervous energy would have been palpable when 1.6 seconds were put on the clock and then players were shuffled on and off the court for both teams.
When Fox wound up on the baseline and hurled a Haily Mary pass some 60 feet down the court, there wouldn’t have been a peep in the building. When Harrison Barnes snared the pass, turned around and drilled a 3-pointer over two Cavs, the building would have erupted.
Maybe 100 people witnessed something this special live and in person Saturday, and that is a shame.
The Kings players stormed the court, celebrating the madness. They surrounded Barnes in a moment of sheer chaos.
As someone who has watched situations unfold like this so many times, the missing ingredient took a small amount of pleasure away from the moment. Fans deserved to see it live as their team picked up a fourth straight win and moved within a game of the Western Conference’s final play-in spot. Unfortunately, a global pandemic makes that impossible at this moment in time.
The miracle shot at the buzzer was drawn up by Kings coach Luke Walton, although even he admitted that the team hadn’t practiced it outside of maybe a halfcourt walk through.
After dropping 20 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter, Fox should have been one of the options at the far end of the court, but after viewing his options, Walton made a difficult decision.
“I don’t know if Tyrese [Haliburton] is strong enough to throw the ball full-court yet,” Walton said with a smile. “Richaun [Holmes] told me pretty clearly that he’s not good at it. I wanted Harrison to be the one to catch and shoot it, and Delon [Wright] is the other one and he’s been here half a day.”
Fox might have been the most qualified player on the roster to make the pass. He has a sneaky background as a pee-wee football quarterback before turning in his cleats for sneakers.
“I did play quarterback growing up,” Fox said. “Just in case you were wondering.”
The plan was for Fox to throw the ball towards the Cavs bench where only Barnes could grab it. Fox threw a strike, and the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report likely will show a touch foul on the Cavs’ Dean Wade as Barnes squared for the shot.
Barnes’ shot looked good the moment it left his hand, and the outpouring of emotion from his teammates had a little extra kick with Sacramento starting to build real momentum.
“Once I was able to see some daylight and it left my hand, I thought it was going to be good,” Barnes said. “Just to be able to celebrate with my teammates, to have that joy, I think that kind of embodies where we’re at as a team right now. Not only are we winning, but it feels like we’re building something.”
After the craziness, Barnes stopped to give a postgame interview with NBC Sports California. Haliburton interrupted the conversation to dump a bottle of water on the veteran forward as he finished an answer.
In case you needed further proof about the bonds the Kings are forming, the team posted a video of what awaited Barnes when he returned to the locker room.
Should the Kings have needed a buzzer-beater to take down the Cavs? Did they play a perfect 48-minute game? Do they still have a long way to go in their development as a team?
Those are all questions for another day. This was a huge win for a team that is on the right track after a rollercoaster start to the season. Hopefully there comes a time when the Kings will be allowed to invite at least a few fans into Golden 1 Center to enjoy what is happening.
After so many years of struggles, the Kings look like they finally might be onto something.