Mike Can Coach!: Malone makes history in Nuggets 128-110 win over the Kings

By Morris Phillips

SACRAMENTO–Doing big things after leaving the Sacramento Kings has a familiar ring. Isaiah Thomas, DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo did that. Tyrese Haliburton is a pretty good bet to do that. And Mike Malone might be the best example of that and he’s not even an NBA player.

Remember Malone? Not even his working relationship and belief in the mercurial Cousins could save his head coaching job eight years ago. The Kings fired Malone in 2015 after the team went 39-67 in a rough season and a sluggish start to the next. And Malone picked himself up and moved to Denver, where he’s won 300 games in seven seasons, culminating with the milestone win at Golden 1 Center Thursday night, 128-110 over the Kings.

“This is a tough business,” a proud Malone said after the game. “I got fired in my first job. I’ve seen my father get fired. This business is not for the weak-minded. Here’s to 300 more.”

That Malone has racked up the wins in Denver with a defensive mindset, and a versatile center who plays like Cousins in reigning MVP Nikola Jokic couldn’t sit well with the Kings’ leadership. While Malone continues to do with Denver what many think he could have done in Sacramento had there been more patience, the Kings are floundering defensively, allowing a league-worst 115 points per game after allowing 128 in their first game since the All-Star break.

“Against a team like that, if you turn it over they’re going to convert on the other end. In that fourth quarter they made a couple of 3s in a row that really hurt us,” Domantas Sabonis said.

The Kings trailed by as many as 13 points in the third, but rallied to within five, 92-87 at the end of the quarter. But the hosts became even more generous in the fourth, allowing 36 points as Denver ran away.

Jokic led the Nuggets with 25 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists as his 34 minutes of floor time was the only hindrance to him posting a triple-double. Will Barton and Monte Morris added 31 and 19 points respectively as Malone’s big victory was engineered by his three, most tenured players.

Sabonis led the Kings 33 points and 14 rebounds, and his 15 for 23 shooting was a major reason the Kings stayed within range for three quarters. De’Aaron Fox had 20, and Harrison Barnes 14 giving the Kings a balanced attack, inside and out. What hurt them was 20 misfires from distance, with ten, different Kings missing at least one 3-point attempt.

“We have to shoot the ball better,” coach Alvin Gentry said. “We had a lot of open looks we missed and they came down and converted. That’s where the separation starts.”

The Kings fell to 22-39 with 21 games remaining in their season. Their prospects for a 10th place finish aren’t great, but they could improve if the club can win at New Orleans and San Antonio next week, two of the three clubs ahead of them in the standings that must be displaced.

CRISIS IN UKRAINE TOUCHES SACRAMENTO: Kings’ center Alex Len and Svi Mykhailiuk of the Toronto Raptors issued a joint statement before the game that impassionately placed both natives of Ukraine in support of their homeland in the face of the Russian invasion of the Eastern Europe country.

“We pray for our families, friends, relatives and all the people who are in the territory of Ukraine. We hope for an end to this terrible war as soon as possible. Dear fellow Ukrainians, hold on! Our strength is our unity! We are with you.”

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