By Morris Phillips
SACRAMENTO — A better effort? Yes. But after a second half Monday littered with missed shots, the Kings are still in search of their first win of the season.
The Kings missed 18 of their 21 3-point attempts after halftime and fell to the Denver Nuggets 101-94. The Nuggets overcame Nikola Jokic’s foul trouble and a brief, second quarter, nine-point deficit to remain undefeated at 3-0.
The Kings were more accountable than they were in road losses to the Suns and Jazz, but were doomed by a substandard third quarter in which they were outscored 30-17 and missed 16 of their 21 shots from the floor. The missed shots proliferated as the Nuggets increased their defensive effort in the second half. Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic were the biggest offenders, shooting a combined 4 for 25, 2 of 13 from three.
Even with Richaun Holmes (24 points, 13 rebounds) the Kings weren’t equipped to overcome an off shooting night from Bogdanovic and Hield.
The Kings fell to 0-4, one of three NBA teams (Pelicans, Pacers) still looking for their first win of the season.
The Kings played without Harry Giles and Marvin Bagley III, but got a break when De’Aaron Fox was cleared after his leg injury against Utah. Fox displayed his usual quickness leading the Kings to a 53-47 lead at the break. Fox finished with 20 points, nine assists.
The Kings couldn’t take full advantage of the Nuggets’ poor shooting before the half. Denver shot 32 percent in the first half, but they were still in position to take control defensively after the break.
“We didn’t change our game plan. We just changed how hard and how physical we were playing,” Denver coach Mike Malone said. “This was another night our offense struggled, but some guys stepped up and made big plays down the stretch.”
The Kings have struggled in all four third quarters so far, getting outscored by at least 10 points each time. Ironically, defense in the third was a bigger issue on Monday than offense, where the team had a gaping hole in the post without Bagley.
“We have to come in and just lock in, lock in to what we’re doing and lock in fast,” Holmes said.
The Kings continue their homestand Wednesday against the Hornets, who dropped games against the Lakers and Clippers Sunday and Monday.