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Mamba mentality for Buddy Hield

Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield reacts after making a three-point basket during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls in Chicago,

Friday, Jan. 24, 2020.

January 29, 2020

Sheldon Longley

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Bahamian Chavano “Buddy” Hield was on another level on Monday night, drilling shot after shot – almost as if some unworldly force was driving him.

In his first game since the passing of basketball legend Kobe “Black Mamba” Bryant, he struck for a career-high 42 points on 24 shots in 38 minutes of play off the bench, and added five rebounds and three assists. Hield wears number 24 and regularly proclaims that he is from the 242 in reference to The Bahamas’ area code, and Bryant – who tragically died on Sunday morning along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others in a horrific helicopter crash – wore numbers 8 and 24 in his career.

The 42 points is 24, and five plus three in reference to rebounds and assists, adds up to eight. Additionally, Hield became just the second player in the last 20 years with a 20-point fourth quarter while shooting 100 percent from the field, in a game where his team overcame a 25-point deficit. The other was – you guessed it – Kobe Bryant.

Hield said on Monday night following the Sacramento Kings’ 133-129 overtime win over the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that “it was all for Kobe”. The Kings trailed by as much as 27 points in the game, were behind by 19 entering the fourth quarter and miraculously overcame a nine-point deficit in the final 37 seconds of regulation.

“I was thinking of him (Bryant) a lot,” said Hield afterwards. “When my brother called me, he told me to do it for Kobe. Everyone knows how much Kobe meant to me. In The Bahamas, there were numerous arguments and fights that I got into trying to show people that he was better than Michael Jordan because that’s all I knew growing up. I didn’t grow up watching Michael. I watched LeBron [James], but Kobe was always that guy for me. He made me believe and that’s why I’m here today. Coming from The Bahamas is tough. It’s a small country, but I have a big heart and he made me believe. I’m blessed.”

In scoring his career-high 42 points for the Kings, Hield had the second most prolific performance from downtown in his career, knocking down nine three-point shots. In total, he finished 14-for-24 from the field and 9-for-14 from three-point land, helping the Kings complete an improbable comeback.

Monday night certainly was a night for the 242 as Eric Gordon, a player with Bahamian roots, struck for a career-high 50 on 14-for-22 shooting for the Houston Rockets, leading them to a huge 126-117 win over the Utah Jazz on the road. He was 6-for-11 from downtown.

As for the Hield and the Kings, it was a much-needed win for them against the Timberwolves. They had recently dropped six in a row and slipped all the way to 13th in the west.

The Kings fell behind by 22 early in the fourth quarter, but never gave up. Hield buried a three-point shot with 4:34 remaining to bring them to within 13 points, 108-95. However, the Timberwolves got it back up to 17 with 2:49 remaining and all seemed lost for the Kings. Hield and De’Aaron Fox were not prepared to let the Kings lose. They combined for 24 of the Kings’ final 26 points in regulation. Hield, in particular, was on fire, knocking down five three-pointers in a four-minute period during that span.

With the Timberwolves up by nine, 119-110, with 37 seconds remaining, Hield got fouled behind the three-point line and proceeded to knock down all three free throws. After Shabazz Napier missed two free shots on the other end, Hield buried a 29-foot three-point jumper to pull the Kings to within three, 119-116, with 30.9 seconds remaining.

Andrew Wiggins missed an 18-foot two point shot with 6.8 seconds remaining for the Timberwolves, and the Kings had an opportunity to pull even in the final seconds. Fox was fouled with 4.7 seconds remaining, hit the first free shot and intentionally missed the second in which he quick shot the ball off the front rim, grabbed the rebound and went back up for two, tying the game at 119.

Karl-Anthony Towns missed a 17-foot two point shot at the buzzer for the Timberwolves.

In the overtime session, the Kings took their first lead of the game since the opening minutes of the first quarter on a free shot from Fox, 122-121, with 3:33 remaining. The Timberwolves re-took the lead on a three-point shot from Robert Covington but the Kings battled back again, taking the lead for good on a jumper from Bogdan Bogdanovic who has started for Hield in the past two games for the Kings. Hield might have earned that starting job back on Monday night though.

A couple of free shots from Nemanja Bjelica gave the Kings a 131-129 lead with 48.3 seconds remaining. Clutch free throw shooting down the stretch sealed the improbable win for the Kings – their second straight after losing six in a row to improve to a 17-29 win-loss record on the season. They trail the eighth-place Memphis Grizzlies (22-24) by five full games for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference of the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Hield scored all 42 points of his points in regulation, admitting afterwards that he didn’t want to score in the overtime session because he realized the significance of the 42. He absolutely idolized Bryant as a kid growing up, emulating his game after the fallen Lakers’ star. Following the fatal crash on Sunday, Hield simply said on Twitter:  “This (expletive) Hit Different right now…”

Then he went out there and exploded for a new career-high on Monday. Fox had 22 points, eight assists and seven rebounds to complement Hield’s career-high. Bjelica added 20 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, and Kent Bazemore added 15 off the bench.

Wiggins had 36 points on 13-for-21 shooting for the Timberwolves. Covington added 24 points and seven rebounds, and Towns scored 23 points and pulled down eight rebounds. The Timberwolves slipped to 15-32.

For the season, Hield is 20.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. Last year, he put up similar numbers, averaging 20.7, 5.0 and 2.5. Hield is tied for second in the league in three-pointers made with Portland’s Damian Lillard, both with 170. Houston’s James Harden leads the way with 200 made three-point shots. Hield is on pace to hit more than 300 three-point shots this year, which would easily surpass the franchise record of 278 he had a year ago.

Hield and the Kings are back in action tonight, taking on the Oklahoma City Thunder at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California, starting at 10 p.m.

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