Kings’ De’Aaron Fox misses 2 free throws to give Hornets 124-123 win

Hornets rookie James Bouknight scored a career-high 24 points in his team's victory

Charlotte Hornets forward Cody Martin (11) reacts after making a three-point basket during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings, Friday, Dec. 10, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Matt Kelley)

CHARLOTTE — With his team trailing by one point with 2.4 seconds on the clock, Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox missed a pair of free throws as the shorthanded Charlotte Hornets claimed a 124-123 home victory Friday night. 

Fox — a career 72.1% free-throw shooter — was 8-for-8 from the foul line (with a game-high 31 points) but came up short on his golden opportunity to potentially tie or win the game for the Kings (11-15).

Sacramento missed both of its tip-in attempts following the second missed shot. 

The frantic sequence capped off an inexplicable series of events for the Hornets (15-13), who had appeared to build a bigger lead at the 5.5 second mark when Cody Martin was fouled while making an acrobatic reverse layup. To the dismay of the Spectrum Center crowd, a referee video review concluded that Martin had been fouled prior to his shot. 

With the game tied at 123-123, the forward made one of his two free throws before errantly fouling Fox shortly after the Kings inbounded the ball. 

“It wasn’t a very smart foul and it was bad timing but it just ended up working out,” Martin said. “He (Fox) missed two free throws I’m sure he doesn’t normally miss and the basketball gods were in our favor. We’ve grinded it out the last few games and had situations where we could have won. We just keep going and trying to figure out ways to win.”

With seven Hornets out of the game due to illness and NBA health and safety protocols (LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Mason Plumlee, Jalen McDaniels, P.J. Washington, Ish Smith and Nick Richards), Martin shined in his starting role, posting 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists. 

Charlotte rookie James Bouknight came off the bench to record a career-high 24 points on six 3-pointers; the 11th pick in the 2021 NBA draft was 9 of 14 from the field with six rebounds after spending the majority of the season buried in the depth chart. 

“I think the feeling is kind of surreal. I knew I was capable of this; I know my coaches believed in me and knew I was capable,” Bouknight said. “This is really just a testament to our chemistry as a team, having vets and older guys stay in my ear and tell me to stay ready. Miles Bridges has been telling me all year my time is gonna come, and today it came.”

Bridges had 23 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, while Kelly Oubre scored 22 points and Gordon Hayward notched 19 points. 

Assisting Fox as the Kings’ primary offensive threats, Terence Davis posted 19 points and eight rebounds as Marvin Bagley III and Buddy Hield each had 15 points off the bench. 

After the game, Hornets coach James Borrego said the win was the proudest he’d been of his team in the past four years, heralding his players’ performance and also commenting on the crowd’s energy.

“Let’s give the fans the credit — they were loud and maybe had a major impact,” Borrego said. “Our players deserve this crowd and our crowd deserves these players. It’s a great marriage right now.”

Charlotte will head out west for a six-game road trip starting with Dallas (12-13) on Monday and ending with Denver (12-13) on Dec. 23.