Watch Kings’ De’Aaron Fox miss two free throws with 2.4 left to give Hornets win

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A confident De'Aaron Fox stepped the foul line for two shots with 2.4 seconds left and his team trailing by one.

After making his first eight free throws of the game, Fox said he was thinking “I’m going to make these two and we’re going to get out of here” with a win.

Then the unthinkable happened.

A 74.1% free-throw shooter coming into the game, Fox sent the first shot off the back rim, the crowd screaming and waving trying to distract him. They got louder on the next try, and Fox tried to overcompensate for the first miss by taking something off his second shot. The ball bounced off the front rim.

Marvin Bagley III tried for a tip-in, but it didn’t fall, and the Charlotte Hornets escaped with a wild 124-123 win over Sacramento on Friday night, snapping the Kings’ three-game win streak.

“I’m very disappointed because I wanted the ball in my hands,” said Fox, who finished with a game-high 31 points – including two free throws to tie the game with 20.2 seconds left. “They took the foul and you want to punish a team for making a mistake like that. But I missed them and there is nothing I can do about it now.”

Rookie James Bouknight, the 11th pick in the 2021 NBA draft, poured in a career-high 24 points on six 3-pointers lead the Hornets, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Miles Bridges added 23 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, and Kelly Oubre had 22 points. The Hornets had seven players out due to illness and NBA health and safety protocols.

Fox’s misses capped a wild final 5.5 seconds. With the game tied and the shot clock off, the Hornets were looking for one shot.

However, a frantic final possession turned into a what appeared to be an and-one after Cody Martin made a reverse layup on the baseline. But Kings coach Alvin Gentry challenged the play and won, and the basket was waived off. Martin went to the line for two shots – missing the first and making the second.

Then, Martin made a critical mental error, fouling Fox near midcourt as he was bringing the ball up the floor with 2.4 seconds left.

“I was just trying being too aggressive and I have to learn from that,” Martin said.

Martin said he knew the Kings were in the bonus and didn’t try to foul Fox intentionally, thinking the Hornets had a foul to give.

“The basketball gods were with us tonight,” Martin said.

Gentry said the team wouldn’t have been in that position without “Foxy (DeAaron Fox) and the way he played up until that point.

“It’s a tough loss for us to take, but we’ve got to take it and move on.”

For Bouknight, Friday had been a long time coming.

He hasn’t seen much playing time since being drafted, in large part because of how well Martin has played. But he said he has remained confident and continued to focus in practice without getting down on himself.

Before the game, Bouknight told Hornets coach James Borrego, “I’m ready.”

“Miles Bridges has been telling me all year my time is going to come – and tonight it came,” said Bouknight, who finished 6 of 8 from 3-point range.

Borrego said after this game that this is the proudest he has ever been of a team after a win since his arrival in Charlotte four years ago.

“Just the resiliency of this team, to never give in, the fight, the perseverance and just the buy in of this group is just, I love this group,” Borrego said. “They never give up. We had seven of our top 10 rotation players out and those guys in that locker room deserve all the credit. They battled until the last second and they deserve all the credit.”

Watch Bam Adebayo score 38, lift Heat to win over Wizards

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MIAMI (AP) — Bam Adebayo scored a season-high 38 points and the Miami Heat beat the Washington Wizards 110-107 Friday night.

Caleb Martin added 20 points and Kyle Lowry finished with 13 points while Tyler Herro had 11 points and 10 assists for the Heat, who won their second straight at home against Washington after their 113-105 victory Wednesday.

Adebayo’s two free throws with 1:37 remaining put Miami ahead 105-104 lead then extended the advantage on a short jumper with 38 seconds left.

“It was one of those things where my teammates gave me the ball and I was taking advantage of the mismatch,” Adebayo said. “They were shots (Washington) let me have.”

Adebayo has scored in double digits in all 18 of his appearances this season. He’s had double-doubles in half of those games; Miami is 6-3 in those contests.

“He had a lot on his shoulders, really the last several games with a lot of different lineups and everything,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You need that stability from your leaders. I think at some point we’ll print up these shirts, `Mr. Reliable,’ and I’ll wear them, probably.”

Lowry also had eight assists, seven rebounds and a four-point play with 3:15 left for a 103-102 lead – the 11th of what would be 13 lead changes on the night.

And it was another close game for the Heat, who are already 4-3 in games decided by three points or less this season.

“That’s what’s happened really for, it seems like several weeks,” Spoelstra said. “It just feels like every single one of these games is going down to the last possession.”

The Wizards cut the deficit on Bradley Beal‘s dunk before Martin made two free throws with 12.5 seconds for the final margin, then hounded Beal defensively on the game’s last possession and forced the Wizards’ All-Star into a miss to end the contest.

“I take pride in trying to make stops,” Martin said. “Those are the types of situations you dream about, game on the line against a guy like Bradley Beal with the ball late shot clock. I just tried to make it as tough as possible.”

Beal and Kyle Kuzma finished with 28 points Kristaps Porzingis added 18 points for the Wizards.

“We did enough throughout the course of the game to put us in position to win,” said Beal, who returned from a one-game absence because of a quadriceps contusion. “We had several leads and ended up giving up those leads late. It was a matter of us getting stops at the defensive ends.”

Heat leading scorer Jimmy Butler (right knee soreness) missed his fifth straight game because of right knee soreness while shooters Max Strus (right shoulder impingement) and Duncan Robinson (left ankle sprain) also sat out.

The Heat rallied from a 12-point deficit late in the first quarter and cut it to 59-56 at halftime.

“Obviously, we had shots late that were makeable to keep them at bay,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said.

Another Hornets injury: Hayward out indefinitely with fractured shoulder

Philadelphia 76ers v Charlotte Hornets
Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images
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The basketball gods have not been kind to the Hornets this season. LaMelo Ball missed the start of the season with a sprained ankle, got back and played just three games before re-injuring it by stepping on a fan’s foot while chasing a loose ball out of bounds. Miles Bridges will not be with the team. Cody Martin had his knee scoped and is out, and Dennis Smith Jr. is out with a sprained ankle — and that’s just the guys out right now.

Now add Gordon Hayward to the list. He is out indefinitely with a fractured shoulder. Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news.

Hayward has a long history of injuries and has battled shoulder issues all season. There had been hope in Charlotte that he could stay healthy long enough to contribute to some wins and build up some potential trade interest (his name came up in Russell Westbrook scenarios, for example). In the 11 games he played, he averaged 16.3 points and shot 38.1% from 3. Of course, a trade was always a longshot because Hayward is owed a fully guaranteed $31.5 million next season, no team was taking that on without sweeteners.

With him injured, a trade is out of the question (other than part of a salary dump).

Kevin Durant says ‘it’s cool to see’ LeBron break all-time scoring record

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LeBron James remains on target to break Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s NBA all-time scoring record, although with the games he has missed this season the target date now looks more like late February/early March.

Kevin Durant is excited to see it, as he told Nick Friedell of ESPN.

“To be the No. 1 in anything, there’s 8 billion people in the world, we just figured that out last week, so to be the No. 1 of all time at scoring the basketball, I’m sure it’s going to be a range of emotions for him,” Durant said at Friday’s shootaround, in advance of a game against the Indiana Pacers. “But to be in an era where we see this live is pretty cool as well. You probably can’t even describe the emotions and feelings him and his family and his friends are going to go through, but it’s cool to see it up close.”

Durant is currently 18th on that all-time scoring list (having just moved past Kevin Garnett), which is impressive in its own right even if he is not going to catch LeBron. LeBron’s feat has taken all of his 20 NBA seasons, and that is what impressed the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich.

“LeBron is taking care of himself so well that he’s been able to play a bundle of games for a lot of years. And that’s what he takes,” Popovich said before his Spurs took on the Lakers. “But he gets credit for taking care of himself and being able to be out there. The way a lot of players don’t even come close to. His commitment to the game and to what he has to do, has allowed him to be in this position.”

LeBron’s quest continues to generate a lot of buzz around the league. He just hopes it’s not the lone bright highlight out of this Lakers’ season, but his team has a lot of work to climb up to the postseason out of a 5-11 start.

 

Leonard, George both out for Clippers Friday, Jokic probable for Nuggets

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When Kawhi Leonard returned and was put in the starting lineup, the Clippers said it was time to buckle down and truly start their season.

Instead, how about another round of injuries?

Paul Goerge is missing his third consecutive game with a hamstring tendon strain, while Leonard has a sprained right ankle and this is his second game out.

Adding to the troubling news for the Clippers in this game, Nikola Jokic is probable.

The Clippers won the first three games Leonard was back, and they have a ridiculous +31.7 net rating in the limited minutes that George and Leonard are on the court together. But the question heading into the season — even among those backing the Clippers to come out of the West (*raises hand*) — was whether would they stay healthy enough to live up to that potential? So far, the signs are not promising.

Yet, the Clippers are 11-8 despite the injuries and just a game back of the top-seeded Suns in a West where no team has run away with it. They are not out of it, but they must find a way to get their stars on the court together for an extended period.