Mavs’ Kyrie Irving, Kings’ De’Aaron Fox face off as West rivals

Northern California basketball fans get an opportunity to witness what could be the start of an entertaining rivalry when Kyrie Irving and the Dallas Mavericks visit De’Aaron Fox and the Sacramento Kings on Friday night.

Irving, who is in his 12th season in the NBA, and Fox, a sixth-year veteran, have spent their careers in opposite conferences and have gone head-to-head just four times. Irving’s teams — the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets twice apiece — have won all four games.

But with Irving having been dealt to the Dallas Mavericks of the Western Conference this week, the electric point guards could start meeting three times a year.

That would include this season as the clubs have yet to face off. They also are scheduled to duel Saturday night on the second day of a two-game, same-site back-to-back, before matching up in Dallas on April 5.

Friday’s head-to-head will be the duo’s first in almost two years. The last time they battled, Fox got the better of Irving in the scoring column for the first time, 27-21, in a 127-118 Kings loss in Brooklyn in February 2021.

Irving had outscored Fox 22-6, 31-19 and 40-19 in their other three career meetings.

Both enter their fifth matchup in fine form.

Donning a Mavericks uniform for the first time — and wearing No. 2 for the first time since he was a Cleveland Cavalier — Irving wasted no time impressing his new fans (via television) with 24 points in a 110-104 road win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.

“It feels good just to get acclimated,” he said of his Mavericks debut. “I’m just grateful I got to play the game that I love with some guys that were selfless out there. It just feels good.”

The win was Dallas’ second straight since losing Luka Doncic to a bruised right heel last week. He joined the club in Los Angeles but did not play, and his status for the Sacramento doubleheader, which ends a five-game trip, remains unclear.

While the Mavericks felt the need to make a big move in their quest to move up in the West, the Kings appear to be perfectly happy with the guys who have taken the club to the top of the Pacific Division two-thirds of the way through the regular season.

Fox and Domantas Sabonis have led the way. They combined for 33 points, 18 assists and 11 rebounds in a 140-120 win at Houston on Monday, then 53 points, 16 assists and 14 rebounds in a 130-128 triumph in a rematch two nights later.

Fox was the hero of the latter, drawing a foul on a 3-point shot attempt with three-tenths of a second to go, then drilling all three free throws to rally the Kings to a fourth win in seven games on a just-completed trip.

Fox has been so hot at the free-throw line this season, shooting a career-best 78.9 percent, he admitted they’re going in even when he wishes they hadn’t.

“I feel like I’m a better free-throw shooter than in the past,” he noted. “Going to the line with the game on the line, especially with 0.3 seconds left, I really knew I need two. I tried to miss the third one (with a one-point lead).”

With 22 points, nine rebounds and five assists, Sabonis missed a double-double for just the third time in his last 36 games. He leads the NBA with 42.

–Field Level Media