by Charlie O. Mallonee
NBA teams have only a 33-percent chance of winning the second game of a back-to-back set on the road. Sacramento won in Dallas on Friday night. The odds were against them going into Denver on Saturday which is why they entered the game as a -12.5 point underdog.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Kings had lost their second game of the season as the Nuggets outscored them 96-79. Denver did not play that spectacular. They just played less sloppy than the Kings did in the game.
For all of the Sacramento rookies, this was their first back-to-back set of games on the road. Add in the fact that the game was played at “mile high” altitude” in Denver and it becomes a real learning situation. This is not an effort to make excuses for the Kings but rather an opportunity to explain the literal uphill battle they faced on Saturday night.
Rebound stats may explain the entire game
The Nuggets out-rebounded the Kings 58-39 in the game. There are very few games where a team can give up 19 more rebounds to their opponents and walk away with a victory.
When the rebounding stats are broken down even further, the impact of Denver’s efforts becomes even greater. The Nuggets pulled down 18 rebounds on offense which created 13 second chance point opportunities. Denver converted eight of the second chance situations which turned into 19 points.
The Kings had only 12 offensive rebounds that turned into 10 points. Eight of those rebounds on offense came in the second half when the Kings had a significant scoring deficit to make up so they did not have the impact they might have had earlier in the game.
The problem — tired legs. You could see that the Kings did not have the spring in their legs like they had in Dallas on Friday night. Fatigue and altitude can be brutal. Yes, the young players will to learn how to deal with these adversities, but that is why fans have been cautioned to remember this is going to be a season of learning.
- De’Aaron Fox continued to amaze on Saturday night as he scored a team-high (tied for game-high) 18 points shooting 8-for-13 from the floor. He sank one 3-pointer, grabbed five rebounds and had one assist. He did all of that while being double-teamed by the defense much of the game.
- Skal Labissiere came off the bench and brought some offense to the game for the Kings. He finished with 13 points in 25-minutes on the floor. He shot 6-for-12 including one 3-pointer. Labissiere also pulled down four rebounds and dished out four assists.
- Z-Bo showed the young kids how an “O.G” plays in a back-to-back on the road. He put up 11 points in 20-minutes. He also grabbed nine rebounds (four offensive). Randolph spent much of the game being very frustrated with the officials and the lack of foul calls.
- Rookie Frank Mason III played in his first NBA game and scored seven points.
- Malachi Richardson saw some playing time most of which came in the fourth quarter and scored eight points.
- Coach Dave Joerger used all 13 of his active players in the game on Saturday night.
- Denver had two players who tied for team-high in scoring and game-high in scoring with De’Aaron Fox. Paul Millsap put up 18 points to go with nine rebounds. The hyperactive Kenneth Faried came off the bench to score 18 shooting 7-for-10.
- Guard Gary Harris scored 17 points going 7-for-11 from the field including three 3-pointers. Early in the game, he just broke loose and worked the backdoor for easy buckets under the basket.
- Will Barton quietly scored 15 points for the Nuggets. He shot 6-for-13 overall and went 3-for-8 from 3-point land.
It was not a beautiful game for either team.
- The Kings shot just 36.6-percent (31-for-85) for the game. They went just 8-for-23 (34.8-percent) from beyond the 3-point arc.
- Free throw opportunities were in short supply again on Saturday night. SAC went to the line just 13 times in the game and hit nine of those opportunities. They have to increase the number of free throw attempts per game.
- They dished out 15 assists but turned it over 14 times which resulted in 19 Denver points. That ratio is not acceptable.
- Rebounding — that has already been discussed.
- The Nuggets shot an acceptable 43.5-percent (37-for-85) from field. They hit 10-of-30 3-point opportunities (33.3-percent).
- Denver went 12-for-20 from the charity stripe.
- Their 58-39 rebound advantage really made the difference in the game for the Nuggets.
- The Nuggets distributed 25 assists and turned the ball over 16 times. Those TOVs resulted in 13 points for the Kings.
The Kings will have Sunday off in the Valley of the Sun and then will face the 0-3 Phoenix Suns on Monday night. The Suns lost to the Clippers in Los Angeles on Saturday night 130-88. FiveThirtyEight.com gives the Suns a 66-percent chance to win the game. They make Phoenix -4-point favorite.
The Nuggets will return to action on Wednesday in Charlotte versus the Hornets. Denver is a 2.5-point underdog according FiveThirtyEight.
The rivalry between Denver and Sacramento because they are facing former Kings coach Michael Malone is officially over. No player on the Kings roster was ever coached by Malone. Wow! How quickly things can change in the NBA.