DALLAS -- The Sacramento Kings have a goal. They are disappointed that their playoff hopes are on life support, but they would still like to finish this season on a high note and possibly a .500 record.
Tuesday evening in Dallas, the Mavericks tried to damage that dream. They pulled away in the fourth quarter on the back of rookie Luka Doncic and looked like they would send Sacramento to a second straight defeat. And then De'Aaron Fox happened.
A win is a win and the Kings continue to add to their total. The 125-121 victory pushed the Kings back to the .500 mark at 37-37. While it could have been a cleaner win, it's all positives following the road victory.
De'Aaron Fox is finishing the season the right way. He's hit the gas down the stretch and giving a glimpse of what teams might see in year-three.
Against the Mavericks, he was frustrated early. He wasn't getting the calls he thought he deserved. He wasn't even getting the calls that Doncic was getting.
At one point, head coach Dave Joerger picked up a technical foul trying to come to Fox's defense. Joerger jokingly said in postgame that he hoped to split the fine with his starting point guard.
With five minutes remaining in the game and the Kings down five, Joerger turned to Fox to finish the game and that is exactly what the 20-year-old did. Fox forced the issue and forced the officiating crew to make a call with his aggressive style.
Fox scored 12 of his 23 points in the final five minutes of the game. He attacked the rim, hit his jumper and finally started to get to the line. He added eight assists and five rebounds to help propel the Kings to victory.
The speedy guard has taken a tremendous step forward in his second NBA season, but he has plenty of room to improve. That's a good thing for Sacramento.
Despite standing 7-feet tall, there are times when the Kings forget that center Willie Cauley-Stein is on the court. That was not the case in the third quarter in Dallas.
Sacramento came out of halftime energized. Dallas made an adjustment to slow the Kings' guards and that opened the alley-oop for Cauley-Stein.
The soon-to-be free agent put on his jumping shoes and posted a 10 of his 16 points in the third. He was active and even made a few nifty passes.
When asked about the scoring outburst following the game, Cauley-Stein had a brief answer, "They passed it to me."
He elaborated when pressed, "Real s---. They passed it to me, they threw the lop and it opened up the rest of the game. Then they had to come tag, now you got the spray pass. It's hard to stop."
In the Kings' high scoring offense, Cauley-Stein and his incredible ability to finish the lob is often forgotten. He's the fourth or fifth option in the offense and sometimes he goes hungry.
Harrison Barnes thought he would be in Dallas for another season after this one, but sometimes the NBA throws you a curve ball.
The 26-year-old returned to the American Airlines Center for the first time since being traded by the Mavs to the Kings at the deadline. Dallas ran a tribute video to their former forward during the first quarter, highlighting some of Barnes' accomplishments both on and off the court.
After struggling to find his way initially with the Kings, Barnes is now averaging 15.1 points and six rebounds in 20 games in purple and black. He's shooting 47 percent from the field and 40 percent from long in 35.2 minutes over his 20 games in Sacramento.
Barnes has also brought a defensive edge to the forward position that the Kings desperately needed. Against his former team, he dropped in 18 points on 7-of-16 shooting, including three makes from long range.
Saying/Doing the Right Things
Rookie Marvin Bagley has been dominant since returning from injury. A tough outing against the Mavs had him scoring 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting with a pair of rebounds.
There is unlimited potential in the 20-year-old, which is why the Kings chose to select him with the No. 2 overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft.
While he refused to jump into a debate over who should have been drafted by the Kings, the rookie earned plenty of friends in the Sacramento community with his post-game comments about playing for the Kings.
[RELATED: Fox switches to "attack mode"]
"I love Sacramento," Bagley said. "I think it's a great fit for me. The city is nice. I love the people around. I meet new people almost every day. The environment there is pretty special. I'm excited about what I can do here and what we can do as a team."
Bagley is quickly mastering the art of the NBA, both on and off the court.