by Matt George
There were so many storylines heading into the Miami Heat vs Sacramento Kings Friday night you could write a novel. Everything from Dwanye Wade’s final game in Sacramento, to Harrison Barnes’ Kings debut, and the start of a tight Western Conference playoff race. Fans filled a buzzing Golden 1 Center well before tipoff, and for much of the game, felt like they were going to leave disappointed.
From the opening tip, the Heat were in control, building a 17 point lead in the third quarter. It was a rough shooting night for the Kings, who finished with an uncharacteristic 41% from the field. However, it was defense that sparked Sacramento’s incredible late comeback, holding Miami to just two points in the final six-and-a-half minutes, to steal the 102-96 win.
“Very proud of our group,” said coach Dave Joerger, “That’s a tough win. We didn’t feel like we played great but we played hard and didn’t quit. We got seven stops in a row to win the game”.
Buddy Hield led the way in scoring for the Kings, grinding out a 23 point night on 16 shots. Harrison Barnes provided 12 points and some crucial on-ball defense in his 37 minute debut.
“I thought (Harrison) got us a couple baskets when we needed to. I thought his experience at the defensive end helped us in the last six minutes…” said Joerger.
“(Harrison and Alec Burks) definitely both played well. I just told them to go out there and be themselves. Play defense, play with energy, and have fun…” added De’Aaron Fox. Burks provided nine points off the bench in his debut.
“It was loud. Great to be out there,” said Barnes, “Great to get get a win like this with these guys”.
Barnes was very appreciative of Dave Joerger’s confidence in him, to start him in his debut and keep him on the floor down the stretch. “For him to have that trust in me to be out there with those guys, it means a lot.”
Wade, despite taking a scary fall early in the game, provided 15 points in 14 shots off the bench. Fox, who watched Wade while he was growing up, spoke on sharing the court with the soon-to-be hall-of-famer, “It was cool. I just thought of it as another game. Didn’t want to get caught up in the moment…”.
Wade expressed his gratitude towards the Sacramento reception post game, “…the fan love was amazing. I’m appreciative of that and they have a good young team to root for and if they keep this core together, keep adding good young veterans like they did, they’ll be an exciting team to watch for a while”.
The Kings are now 4-1 on this current homestand, which ends Sunday with a game between the Kings and the Phoenix Suns. Now 29-26 on the season, Sacramento is a half game out of the 8th seed in the West.