The Kings and Warriors are returning to Sacramento for Game 5 with the series tied 2-2, as both teams have taken care of business at home. While the home team has won each game, the series has been filled with late-game drama and has been the most entertaining of the first round tilts.
The first four games have, in particular, cemented Kings guard De’Aaron Fox as a star. Fox has averaged 31.5 points, 7.0 assists, and 6.0 rebounds per game in his first four postseason appearances, carrying the Sacramento offense at times and continuing to thrive in the fourth quarter as he did all regular season. Fox’s game translating to the playoff stage has been absolutely critical to the Kings’ success, which is why Monday’s news that the rising star had suffered a fracture of the tip of his index left finger (which is his shooting hand) in the fourth quarter of Game 4 provided a significant damper on the excitement for Game 5.
Sacramento Kings star De'Aaron Fox has suffered a fractured index finger in his left shooting hand, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. Fox is expected to be listed doubtful to play in Game 5 vs. Warriors.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) April 24, 2023
Kings guard De'Aaron Fox fractured the very tip of his left index finger in Game 4, but there's still hope he will try and play Game 5 on Tuesday, sources tell ESPN. Fox would need to play with a protective covering on the finger. He will be listed as doubtful.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 24, 2023
The Kings are heavily reliant on Fox’s creation skills, especially late in games where he’s their only real isolation threat as a scorer. If he’s unable to go in Game 5, which seems likely given the expected “doubtful” designation, this year’s Coach of the Year, Mike Brown, will have his hands full crafting a new rotation. On top of his huge offensive performances, Fox has also been vital to the Kings’ defensive gameplan against Stephen Curry, where he and Davion Mitchell take turns hounding the future Hall of Famer fullcourt to disrupt the Warriors’ rhythm.
Without Fox, executing that gameplan becomes much more difficult because no one can replace Fox’s recovery speed, which is part of why he can pressure full court. On top of that, Fox makes playing Mitchell much easier on the offensive end, where Davion is not an on-ball threat and is a below average shooter (but has made some timely baskets in this series). Malik Monk is the obvious answer for where Brown turns for on-ball creation in the backcourt, but he’s not been able to replicate quite the same success he had in Games 1 and 2 over the past two on the road. Domantas Sabonis also becomes more important as a hub, as the dribble-handoff game with the Kings’ various shooters would likely be an even bigger staple of the Kings offense without Fox.
Even if he can play, it’s hard to see the injury not inhibiting him at least some, and the rest of the Kings will have to be ready to step up, particularly as shooters, if the finger issue causes him to struggle with his feel on his shot.