MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — On a night full of tributes to Kobe Bryant, Buddy Hield’s stole the show.
Channeling the memories of his childhood hero, Hield poured in a career-high 42 points to rally the Sacramento Kings from a 27-point deficit to a 133-129 overtime victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night.
“That’s the reason I wanted to play in the NBA because of Kobe,” Hield said. “I feel that he was with me. He never gives up. That’s always his mentality. Never give up. No matter what the stakes was, he was always pushing, always pressing. He’s making sure guys feel him. That’s what I did tonight.”
De’Aaron Fox scored 22 for the Kings, putting back the rebound of his intentionally missed free throw as part of a 33-11 run over the final 5:42 of regulation. Sacramento trailed by 17 with 2:49 left. According to ESPN Stats and Info, entering on Monday, NBA teams were 0-8,378 since 1996-97 when trailing by 17 or more in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime.
“No matter what, we should be able to play with a 15-point lead with a couple minutes left,” Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders said. “They made shots. We didn’t execute our defensive game plan. We didn’t get rebounds when we needed to. We didn’t make the needed plays.”
Sacramento ended a five-game road trip with its second consecutive victory. Fox scored 17 points in the second half and overtime. Nemanja Bjelica finished with 20 points.
“We’ve been on the road for 10 days, and it’s been an emotional last couple days,” said Kings coach Luke Walton, a teammate of Bryant’s for nine seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers.
“We’ll take it. What I love about this group is what they’ve shown all year, which is they don’t ever stop fighting.”
Andrew Wiggins had 36 points, nine rebounds and eight assists for the Timberwolves, who lost their 10th consecutive game.
With the Kings down three with 4.7 seconds left in regulation, Fox made his first free throw. He intentionally fired the second off the front of the rim, grabbed his own rebound and laid it in to tie the game with 3.6 seconds left.
That was after Hield shot the Kings back into the game. Hield grew up in the Bahamas idolising Bryant, who died on Sunday in a helicopter crash. He wears number 24 in Bryant’s honour. After Monday’s game, he fondly recalled his first meeting with Bryant while playing in the Elite Eight with Oklahoma.