De’Aaron Fox carries Kings to 102-94 victory over Knicks

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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.”

 

Unstoppable Meyers Leonard drops 25 on Warriors in first half (VIDEO)

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Stephen Curry had an I-don’t-want-to-play-Game-5 kind of first half for Golden State, scoring 25 points and hitting 5-of-7 from three.

However, he was the second best player on the court because Meyers Leonard held that crown.

Yes, Meyers Leonard.

He had 25 points of his own on 10-of-12 shooting.

Fans broke out a “Mey-ers Leon-ard” chant.

All that had Portland up 69-65 at the half in a defense-optional Game 4 where it is win-or-go-home for the Trail Blazers.

Knicks Frank Ntilikina reportedly wants to be traded, switches agents

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When the Knicks acquired Emmanuel Mudiay last season — a player Denver just released outright — Mudiay instantly jumped past Frank Ntilikina on the point guard depth chart. Then, when the Knicks traded for Dennis Smith Jr. at the deadline (part of the Kristaps Porzingis deal), the future of Ntilikina in New York was thrown into uncertainty.

Ntilikina sees that, wants out, and is getting a new agent as well, reports Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina dropped CAA as his agency last season and planned to sign with French agent Bouna Ndiaye, the Daily News has learned.

Ntilikina, who was drafted eighth overall by Knicks in 2017, is on the trading block and desires a relocation, a source told the News. The Knicks declined offers to move Ntilikina at the trade deadline in February, acquired another point guard in Dennis Smith Jr., and Ntilikina quickly decided to change agents.

Ndiaye represents several French players in the NBA, including Rudy Gobert and Evan Fournier.

The Knicks are expected to try to trade Ntilikina, either at the draft or next summer. Mostly other teams will view him as a way to save money — if teams do not pick up his 2020-21 option by Oct. 31 he comes off the books after this next season — but also Ntilikina played good defense and other teams may try to take a flier on him.

Andre Iguodala out for Game 4 against Portland with sore calf

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Andre Iguodala was limited in Game 3 in Portland, playing just 18 minutes Saturday night, none after he was taken out with 7:49 left in the third quarter. An MRI on his left calf Sunday came back clean, but he was questionable with leg tightness, officially. Call it a sore calf if you prefer.

Up 3-0 in the series, there was no reason to risk something worse in Game 4, so Iguodala is out, coach Steve Kerr announced pregame.

Alfonzo McKinnie will start in place of Iguodala.

Iguodala joins Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins on the Warriors bench for Game 4.

If there is a Game 5, it will be Wednesday night in the Bay Area.

With the NBA Finals not starting until May 30 — a week from this Thursday — the Warriors have plenty of time to rest and get their starters healed before taking on a serious challenger from the East (whether that is Milwaukee or Toronto). The Warriors have used their depth against Portland to help keep minutes down for their starters and Kerr will lean on that bench to close out the series in the next couple of games.

Report: Rockets, Mike D’Antoni talking contract extension

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Mike D’Antoni, the father of the seven seconds or less system that started a revolution of NBA style, has changed in recent years. In Houston, with James Harden at his peak and this specific roster around him, D’Antoni now coaches an isolation-heavy team that has pushed the NBA envelope in other ways, particularly in trusting the three ball.

D’Antoni fits with Daryl Morey, and the sides have started talking contract extension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Houston Rockets and coach Mike D’Antoni have had preliminary discussions about the framework of a contract extension that would keep the two-time NBA Coach of the Year from entering the final year of his deal…

“I’ve let [general manager] Daryl [Morey] and [team owner] Tilman [Fertitta] know that I’m energized to keep coaching — and believe that I can continue to do this at a high level for at least another three years,” D’Antoni, 68, told ESPN on Sunday night.

“I want to be a part of a championship here.”

This is the smart move, he is a part of what has made the Rockets such a success in recent years.

The Rockets should look for roster upgrades this summer but they should not be blowing things up. The Rockets were the second best team in the NBA last season and may have been again by the playoffs this season (it depends on where you want to put Milwaukee and Toronto in that ranking, but the Rockets were in the mix). Houston’s problem has been a historic dynasty in Golden State, but that could look very different next season. If the Warriors take a step or two back, for whatever reasons, Houston is poised to pounce. They will be contenders.

D’Antoni is a part of that, and the Rockets need to keep one of the best coaches in the game in house.