NEW YORK (AP) — With an afternoon start that felt like morning to them, the Sacramento Kings weren’t sharp when their game began.
De'Aaron Fox made sure they were fine at the finish.
Fox had 30 points and eight assists, carrying the Kings down the stretch to a 102-94 victory over the New York Knicks on Saturday in the opener of a four-game trip.
Fox scored 12 points in the final six minutes after the Knicks had erased a 12-point deficit to take a two-point lead.
“At the end of the game, once you see something’s working you kind of keep going back to it, keep going to it, keep going to it, and I think that’s what we did,” Fox said.
Buddy Hield added 19 points for the Kings, who need a strong performance during their trip to the East after entering play four games behind San Antonio for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Dennis Smith Jr. scored 18 points for the Knicks but was hit with a technical foul for his reaction to getting bumped from behind by Nemanja Bjelica after a basket with the Knicks down two and 2:12 left.
“It was a dead ball and he came up and pushed me. I retaliated and got us a tech,” Smith said. “I shouldn’t have done it and they knocked down the free throw. It changed the game a little bit.”
DeAndre Jordan added 14 points and 15 rebounds in the Knicks’ fifth straight loss.
“We missed like six point-blank layups uncontested at the rim, and we just can’t afford that to win games,” coach David Fizdale said.
It was tied in the third before Hield scored five straight points to start a 12-0 run to finish the period and make it 80-68.
New York rallied to an 89-87 lead midway through the fourth after an 11-0 burst, but Fox made five of Sacramento’s final six baskets, including a pair of three-point plays.
The noon local start was a challenge for both teams, with Sacramento coach Dave Joerger noting that meant 9 a.m. back home for his players, and the Knicks just back from a trip to the West. He rubbed his eyes before the game to demonstrate that it could be two tired teams on the floor.
The Knicks had the energy early, racing to leads of 7-0 and 24-9. Sacramento cut it to 30-23 by the end of the first quarter, then limited New York to 16 points in the second to grab a 48-46 edge.
“I thought our bigs, especially in the second half, were terrific,” Joerger said. “They’re not going to get the credit for the numbers, but they ran really hard and opened up the opportunities for guys like Buddy and De’Aaron in transition.”