Kings For a Half: Nuggets pick it up after the break in 120-118 win over Sacramento

By Morris Phillips

The Sacramento Kings may have run wild in the first half on Wednesday night, but the third quarter belonged to the Denver Nuggets–with Isaiah Thomas in his debut, without Coach Mike Malone who was ejected, and MVP candidate Nikola Jokic reaching into his bag of tricks.

The Nuggets overcame an 11-point halftime deficit in the first six minutes of the third quarter and held on for a 120-118 win over the Kings.

Both teams concluded play prior to the All-Star Break, with the Nuggets moving within two games of the conference-leading Warriors, and the Kings temporarily falling out of the eighth and final playoff spot by losing while the Clippers blew past the Suns, 134-107 at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

The Kings started the evening four games over .500 for the first time this season, and they hardly looked satisfied, shooting a high percentage from the start on their way to an 11-point lead after a quarter. Buddy Hield put up 11 of his team-high 25 points in the opening frame that end with Sacramento leading 41-30.

The Kings continued to roll into the second quarter, and with their lead holding at eight prior to the half, Malone was at his boiling point. When Malik Beasley took a physical path to the basket without a foul call, Malone went from coaching to observing instaneously. Two technicals sent the defensive-minded coach to the showers.

“I think our players know me, they know who I am,” Malone said of his ejection. “I am a fighter, I am a competitor. I didn’t like some of the calls that were not being called and I am going to stick up for my players.”

Denver’s third quarter response was an example of why and how quickly they’ve vaulted to the top of the Western standings this season. With Jokic the primary ballhandler, the Denver offense turned poetic, a parade of driving, cutting and passing with the 6’11” center as the hub. Jokic’s consecutive assists on baskets by Torrey Craig and Malik Beasley brought the Nuggets within 85-83 with 3:09 left in the third.

Isaiah Thomas got into the act later in the third with eight, quick points in the final two minutes plus that allowed the Nuggets to open the fourth period with a 93-91 lead. Thomas, seeing his first action in Denver uniform, missed the first 56 games of the season rehabbing his hip.

When asked what type of impact Thomas will have on the Nuggets and their post-season aspirations, Monte Morris, a player who likely will lose minutes to Thomas, was quick to chime in.

“13 minutes out there (and score) eight points quick.” Morris said. “That just shows you right there what type of player he is.”

Jokic tipped in the game winner with 0.8 seconds remaining, which allowed enough time for a desperation shot from the Kings. Hield got a shot off that would have counted, but it merely grazed the front of the rim.

The Kings open the post All-Star break portion of the schedule in Oakland a week from Thursday against the Warriors.

NBA podcast with Jerry Feitelberg: Kings take tough 114-95 loss; Wizards just nick the Knicks 101-100; 76ers pile on the Pacers 120-96; plus more

Photo credit: @SacramentoKings

On the NBA podcast with Jerry Feitelberg:

#1 The Sacramento Kings took a tough 114-95 loss in Charlotte Thursday night to the Hornets. The Hornets’ Kemba Walker led with 23 points. The Kings drop their road record to 9-12.

#2 The Washington Wizards just got by the New York Knicks 101-100. The Wizards Bradley Beal had 26 points for Washington.

#3 The Philadelphia 76ers piled up the points for a 120-96 win over the Indiana Pacers. The Sixers’ Jimmy Butler led with 27 points.

#4 The Toronto Raptors beat the Suns 111-109 in Toronto. The Raptors’ Pascal Siakam had 10 points to lead Toronto in scoring.

#5 The Denver Nuggets knocked off the struggling Chicago Bulls 135-105. The Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic led with 18 points.

Jerry Feitelberg is a Golden State Warriors beat writer and does the NBA podcasts each week at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Warriors blow out the Nuggets 142-111 in Denver

Photo credit: @warriors

By: Jerry Feitelberg

The Golden State Warriors won their fifth game in a row as they dominated the Denver Nuggets as they won the game 142-111 at the Pepsi Center Tuesday evening. With the win, the Warriors took over the first seed in the Western Conference by just 1/2 game over the Nuggets. The Warriors set two records in the first quarter of the game as they scored 51 points. It was the first time in NBA history that a team scored that many points. The Warriors also set a franchise record as they made 10 3-point shots in the quarter. The Warriors wanted to make a statement Tuesday night, and they did just that as they dominated the Nuggets from start to finish.

The Warriors came out firing to start the game. Klay Thompson, Steph Curry, and Kevin Durant rained down threes on the Nuggets. The Nuggets didn’t play poorly as they scored 38 points, but they finished the quarter trailing 51-38. The Warriors increased the lead to 19 at the end of the first half. They lead 79-60. The Nuggets made a 17-9 run to close the gap to 72-60, but the Warriors scored the last seven points to finish with the 19-point advantage. Kevin Durant led the Warriors with 20. Thompson had 18, and Curry ended with 14. All three connected four times on 3-pointers. Jamal Murray led the Nuggets with 21. Nicola Jokic had 9, and Paul Millsap added 8 for Denver.

The Warrior onslaught continued in the third quarter. They outscored the Nuggets 33-23 to increase the lead to 29. Curry, near the end of the quarter, scored 11 points. He made three treys and one bucket to give the Warriors the lead 112-83. Curry and Durant sat out the fourth quarter. Thompson came out of the game with &:26 left to play. The Warriors bench finished the game as the Warriors won 142-111.

Game Notes and Stats; The Warriors won their fifth game in a row and improved to 30-14. The Nuggets dropped to 29-14. The 51 points in the first quarter were the fifth time in the 73rd year of the team’s existence that they scored more than 50 points in a quarter. Klay Thompson had four dunks in the game for the first time in his career, and Kevon Looney had a career-high 12 rebounds.

Draymond Green’s line was 4 points, six boards, and 13 assists. He was plus 41 when he was in the game. Kevin Durant finished with 27 points, four rebounds, and six assists. He connected on five 3-point shots. Thompson had 31 and he, too, made five threes. Curry finished with 31, and he made eight threes. He was plus-25 when he was on the floor. Quinn Cook, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, and Jonas Jerebko all made significant contributions coming off the bench.

Scoring leaders for Denver were Malik Beasley with 22, Jamal Murray 21 (none in the second half), Jokic with 17, Will Barton 11, and Mason Plumlee 9.

Up Next: The Warriors return home to face the New Orleans Pelicans Wednesday night at Oracle Arena. Game time is at 7:30 pm. The Warriors then play The Los Angeles Clippers Friday night in Los Angeles. DeMarcus Cousins will be making his debut as a Golden State Warrior. It will be his first basketball game since he suffered an Achilles tendon injury last January.

Kings unable to contain Nuggets’ second half surge in 117-113 loss

Photo credit: @SacramentoKings

By: London Marq

SACRAMENTO — The talk around Sacramento has changed this season. The Kings are playing better, and the excitement is brewing. Even with only 19 wins, 2 games above .500, and sitting one spot out of the playoffs the Golden 1 Center is a much different, much rowdier place to play.

Thursday night, the Kings hosted the west leading Denver Nuggets and their Coach Mike Malone, who four years ago was tossed out of Sacramento midseason after the team had been playing well. The Kings are playing well once more, and whether Malone wants to admit it or not, he’s surely looking for some revenge.

Despite the Kings allowing the Nuggets to grab some early offensive rebounds, they were able to claim an early lead behind the potent offense of Buddy Hield and Nemanja Bjelica. Bjelica, through the first 9 minutes of the game, had 12 points and was 5 of 7 from the field with two makes from beyond the arc. The Rising Star of the Denver Nuggets Nikola Jokic struggled from deep, going 0-for-3 from the three-point line. He was still able to make his presence felt with 10 points and 3 boards, to make it all even after one period at 30 points apiece.

In the second quarter, Bjelica would fall victim to foul trouble, tallying 3 offensive fouls that would sideline him with more than half of the quarter to go. The Kings were more than equal to it. The Kings’ European Star Bogdan Bogdanavic, has been finding that stride that made him an MVP in Turkey. If you disagree, just check out this huge game-winner he hit against the Lakers last week. He caught fire in the second quarter against Denver and scored 11 points helping the Kings gain a comfortable lead. Bogdanovic wasn’t the only one. Yogi Ferrell got in on the action as well, dropping in 7. The Kings led by 15 at one point and took a 13-point advantage into the half 66-53.

The Nuggets didn’t come out of the half on fire, but the Kings certainly came out ice cold. Coach Mike Malone had his defense playing a smothering style of basketball. After 7 minutes eclipsed in the third, Sacramento has only scored 10 points. Despite all their defensive effort, with 61 seconds left in the quarter the Nuggets would only hold a 3-pint lead. They wouldn’t be able to contain the Kings, however, who put together two good possessions, including a huge block by the feisty Justin Jackson, and the game would be tied at 84 to end the quarter.

The name of the game in the fourth quarter was size and rebounding. The Nuggets have a ton of size and Nikola Jokic looked like Godzilla on the floor, dwarfing every single Kings player on the court. Late in the game, Denver utilized the size of Jokic, Mason Plumlee and Paul Millsap to dominate around the rim, pulling down 12 rebounds compared to the Kings 8. The was only compounded by Jamal Murray, the young Nuggets guard who exploded for 34 points in the second half, including 15 in the final period after only scoring 2 points the entire first half. Bogdanovic and Hield hit some huge shots at the end to keep it close, but alas, no cigar. The Nuggets go on to win by 4, 117-113.

A tough loss undeniably considering how the Kings opened the game and the 15-point margin they led by in the second quarter. Those are the types of games good teams don’t let slip away. Nevertheless, the Nuggets out rebounded Sacramento 54-to-33 and only won the game by 4 points. That promising–the Kings are playing so well, despite the disparities, demonstrates that they are legitimately one or two pieces away from truly contending in the West in the future. And having more cap space that any other team in the league and playing host to young and excelling talent, that future may be closer than we think.

The Kings host the Golden State Warriors on Saturday, January 5 at 7:00 pm PT.

Kings bounce back on Sunday night, beating the Mavs 120-113

Dallas Kings final
Photo@NBCS

By Charlie O. Mallonee

The road can be a harsh mistress in the National Basketball Association. Road teams — even strong, veteran squads — suffer humiliating upsets as the visitors in NBA arenas every season.

Sacramento experienced a heartbreaking loss on Friday night as the Golden State Warriors went on a late 17-2 run to defeat the Kings 130-125 on their home court. The Sactown team would have no time to pout about the loss as they had to head out on the road for a tough back-to-back set in Dallas and Minnesota.

First meeting with Dallas of the season

Dallas Doncic
Graphic @DallasMavs

The game on Sunday was the first of three games between the Mavs and Kings in 2018-19. The next game will be played March 21 in Sacramento and the final game will take place on March 26 in the DFW Metroplex.

It was the first time the Kings would face the rookie they passed on to draft Marvin Bagley III — Luka Doncic. Early on, draft experts were convinced that Doncic was going to a King because of his European pedigree. They were wrong.

Even now, NBA reporters are criticizing the Kings for not selecting Doncic. The fact that he is averaging 17.8 points per game along with 6.8 rpg and 4.5 apg may have something to do with that criticism. His 13 20-plus point games may also contribute to that chatter.

The Kings had to play shorthanded

Marvin Bagley III was injured in the Warriors game on Friday night. The Kings rookie star suffered a deep bruise on his left knee and is out for an indefinite period of time. The last word on his condition has him being re-evaluated in 10-14 days.

Iman Shumpert injured his hip in that same game on Friday night and his availability versus the Mavericks was considered a game-time decision. The decision was Shumpert would not be available to play in Dallas.

The first half was a draw

Dallas Hield
Photo@SacramentoKings

As the teams hit the locker rooms at halftime, the Kings held a 61-58 lead over the Mavericks. The half featured seven lead changes and the game was tied six times. The Kings biggest was nine points while the Mavs’ largest lead was seven points.

Dallas won the battle in the paint 30-28. Sacramento outscored the Mavericks 19-9 on Fast Break Points.

The Kings shot 46.9% (23/49) in the half while Dallas hit 22-of-52 (42.3%) of their shots. Each team connected on four 3-point baskets in first 24-minutes.

Buddy Hield paced the Kings scoring with 17 points while De’Aaron Fox added 14 on his own.

The Mavericks scoring attack was led by Luka Doncic who put up 13 points. Dirk Nowitzki added three points. The significance of those points is they came in his first appearance before the fans in Dallas this season.

SAC increases its lead in the third period

The Kings outscored the Mavericks 32-25 in the third quarter. Sacramento shot 13-for-24 (54.2%) from the field in the third while Dallas hit 8-of-22 (36.4%) from the floor. Buddy Hield was the Kings leading scorer with nine points while Luka Doncic led the Mavs with six points.

With 36 minutes in the book, Sacramento held a 93-83 lead over the team from DFW.

The Mavs kept it close in the fourth

Doncic scored nine points and Jalen Brunson added eight as the Mavericks outscored the Kings 30-27 in the final period. De’Aaron Fox scored eight points for the Kings who added 27 to their total in the last quarter.

When the final the buzzer sounded, the Kings had won the game 120-113.

The Sactown backcourt duo combined for 56 points

Dallas Kings 5
Photo@SacramentoKings

Kings guards Buddy Hield and De’Aaron Fox each scored 28 points in the game (season-high for Hield). Hield shot 12-for-23 for the game while going 3-for-9 from long distance. He also grabbed four rebounds and added two assists.

Fox went hit 11-of-19 attempts while going 0-for-3 from behind the 3-point line. He hit 6-for-6 from the free throw line. Fox dished out five assists and made three steals.

Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nemanja Bjelica each posted 15 points for the Kings. “Byelly” made it “double-double” by hauling in 10 rebounds.

Mavs scoring

Luka Doncic (remember that name) was the Mavericks leading scorer with 28 points. He also had nine assists. Former Warrior Harrison Barnes recorded 15 points.

The “Monster of the Boards” DeAndre Jordan hauled in 23 rebounds (10 on offense) and scored eight points. The 23 rebounds is a season-high for Jordan.

The standings

The Kings (16-13) are now tied for sixth place in the Western Conference with Memphis and Portland.

Dallas (15-13) is in sole possession of ninth place in the West.

Up next

The Kings will be back in action on Monday night in Minnesota versus a team that just lost four games in a row on the road. The T-Wolves are going to be hungry to get back into the win column so they will be a very dangerous opponent for Sacramento.

The Mavericks will head out on the road and will face the Nuggets in Denver on Tuesday night.

Nuggets block Warriors from overtime with 100-98 win

Photo credit: nba.com/warriors

By: London Donson

The Golden State Warriors traveled to Colorado for a Sunday edition of NBA Basketball. The odd on favorites to win the title faced off against the Denver Nuggets, both teams boasting 2-0 records entering play. While Steph Curry was on the precipice of history, needing to make just five 3-pointers to pass Paul Pierce for sixth on the all-time list, Denver was trying to get themselves an excellent home win against the defending NBA champs.

While the Warriors were in control early, they faced a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter. They would have their say before the night was over, however as they stormed back with a 21-8 run, tying the game at 97 with just under 90 seconds left in regulation. Heading down the stretch, however, the nuggets would regain their lead, 99-97. As the final seconds on the clocked ticked away the Warriors’ Damian Jones had an opportunity snatched away from him right under the hoop. After receiving the pass from driving Curry, Jones was denied from behind Juan Hernangomez and time would expire.

There is not much to glean from this early season tilt from the Warriors’ perspective. They had an off game, yes, shooting only 24% from deep and had problems with ball security through the night, coughing it up 18 times. That being said, they don’t have any true fundamental issues, and they will be getting all-star center Boogie Cousins later this season. A close game at Mile High can be expected when a team comes off two close wins over two of the tough western foes, the Jazz and Thunder.

For the Nuggets, it’s a great sign as things are headed in the right direction with a young core. If they can prove they can pull off close wins against the toast of the Western Conference consistently their streak of five consecutive years missing the playoffs may be coming to an end.

The Warriors return to Oracle Arena to host the Phoenix Suns on Monday at 7:30 pm PT on NSBA and FSAZ.

Kings run out of air at a mile high as Denver wins 130-104 on Sunday

SAC vs DEN featured image
photo @SacramentoKings

by Charlie O. Mallonee

The Sacramento Kings kicked off a short two-game, three-day road trip on Sunday afternoon 5280-feet in the air versus the Denver Nuggets. The loud crash that you heard was the Kings hitting the proverbial brick wall at 120 mph as they were blown out by the Nuggets 130-104.

Denver entered the contest fighting for their playoff lives in ninth-place in the Western Conference, one-half game out of eight-place and being in the NBA playoffs. With the battle for the playoff berths in the West so close, every game is critical for the Nuggets.

Their victory on Sunday moved Denver into a three-way tie for the eighth and final playoff spot with the Clippers and Jazz. The Nuggets are just one-half game behind seventh-place San Antonio.

The final 15-game stretch of the regular season in the Western Conference is going to be a real “dog fight” as 10 teams battle for eight playoff positions.

SAC was a statistical mess

The Kings just suffered in almost every area of the game on Sunday:

  • They shot 42.9-percent from the field while allowing Denver to shoot 56.2-percent for the game.
  •  The Kings went 6-for-31 (19.4-percent) from “3-point land” while the Nuggets hit 15-of-37 (40.5-percent) from long-range. If you are not hitting 3-pointers, a team cannot afford to have their 3-point defense breakdown and hope to win the game.
  • SAC was out-rebounded 51-38 in the game. The Nuggets owned the defensive glass pulling down 43 rebounds on defense to the Kings 31. A team like Sacramento needs those second-chance point opportunities.
  • The Kings had only three steals. Dave Joerger will not be happy with that number because he is all about making deflections on defense.
  • Sacramento recorded only one blocked shot in the game.

Positive numbers:

  • SAC went to the free throw line 26 times in the game which is they type of numbers the coaching staff would like to see on a consistent basis. The Kings converted 20 of those 26 free throw attempts.
  • The Kings protected the ball very well in the contest as they turned it over just three times which resulted in just five points for the Nuggets.

Individual numbers

Kings (21-46)

SAC vs DEN starting 5
 The Starting Five Photo @SacramentoKings
  • Kosta Koufos started at the five spot again. Koufos posted 14 points and he made it a double-double game with 10 rebounds.
  • De’Aaron Fox was back in the starting lineup and played just over 30-minutes. “Swipa” scored 12 points, distributed nine dimes and had three rebounds.
  • Buddy Hield came off the bench to lead the team in scoring with 18 points. “Buddy Buckets” had a much better shooting night hitting 8-of-15 field goal attempts. He did struggle a bit from behind the arc as hit converted 2-of-6 from long-range.
  • There was more good news for SAC as Willie Cauley-Stein returned after being out with back trouble. WCS scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds in just over 30 minutes of playing time.

Nuggets (37-30)

Denver’s starting five was very productive as four of the five scored in double figures and three of the five scored at least 20 points.

  • Nikola Jokic was the man for the Nuggets as he posted a triple-double scoring 20 points, pulling down 11 rebounds and distributing 10 assists. He also had a blocked shot.
  • Gary Harris was the leading scorer for the Nuggets with 21 points.
  • Jamal Murray was the other starter who scored 20 points for Denver shooting 8-for-16 for the game.
  • Trey Lyles had big game coming off the bench scoring 14 points in just over 18 minutes of playing time for his team.

Up next

Kings

SAC wraps up this mini two-game road trip in Oklahoma City on Monday night. The Kings are 4-9 on the second night of back-to-back games this season. The Thunder are 39-29 so far this season and are currently tied for fourth-place in the Western Conference.

Nuggets

Denver has Monday off and then returns to action on the road in Los Angeles versus the Lakers on Tuesday night.

Warriors run out of gas in fourth quarter fall to Denver Nuggets 115-108

Photo credit: @warriors

By Jerry Feitelberg

The Golden State Warriors, playing the back end of a back-to-back series in the Mile High City, lost to the Denver Nuggets 115-108. The Warriors finished the game against the Kings in Sacramento and then boarded a plane and flew to Denver for the game. They probably arrived at the hotel at 4 am and didn’t get much sleep before game time. While it is not an excuse, the record shows that the Warriors own a 5-24 record when having to play in Denver after playing a game in the Pacific time zone.

The Nuggets, under Mike Malone, are an up-and-coming young team and the Warriors will probably face them in the playoffs. The teams split the season series 2-2. The Nuggets have three stars under the age of 22, and they are just now becoming a formidable force in the NBA.

Both teams played a very spirited first half. The Warriors won the first quarter 32-29, but the Nuggets came back, and they trailed the Warriors by one at the half, 56-55. Klay Thompson was hot in the first quarter. Kevin Durant and Steph Curry led the attack in the second. Thompson finished the half with 14, Curry had 12, and Durant pitched in with 13. The Nuggets were led by Will Barton 15 and Gary Harris 12. Barton’s eyes light up when he plays the Warriors and tonight was no exception. The Nuggets take a lot of three-point shots. They were 7-for-16 in the half while the Warriors made just 4 three-pointers in 18 attempts.

The Warriors played well in the third quarter. They led 77-65 about halfway through the third quarter. The Nuggets did not cave, and they were able to reduce the deficit to just six at the end of three quarters of play. The Warriors could not increase the lead in the fourth quarter. Barton made a couple of three-pointers for Denver to give Denver the lead 102-99. The Dubs tied the game at 104, but the Nuggets’ big center, Nikola Jokic, made a three to give Denver the lead for good 107-104. The Warriors fell behind 113-105, and they were toast.  Denver prevailed 115-108.

Game Notes and Stats: The Warriors drop to 41-12, but still own the best record in the Western Conference. If they should finish with the same record as Houston, the Rockets have the tie-breaker and would have home court advantage over Golden State.

Kevin Durant led the Warriors with 31 points. Steph had 24. Klay scored just two points in the second half and finished with 16. Will Barton led the Nuggets with 25. Jokic tallied 19, Harris had 16, and Jamal Murray knocked down 15.

The Nuggets are now 28-25 for the years, and they could present problems to the Warriors should they meet in the playoffs.

Up Next: The Warriors return home to face the Oklahoma City Thunder on February 6th at 7:30 pm PT.

Curry scores game-high 32 points, Warriors rout Nuggets 124-114

Photo credit: @NBA

By: Ana Kieu

After a three-game road trip, the Golden State Warriors returned home to the Oracle Arena and welcomed the Denver Nuggets on Monday night.

In the last matchup between the two teams, Denver embarrassed Golden State with a 96-81 win in Oakland on December 23, 2017.

Tonight, the Warriors were looking to extend their win streak to five games, while the Nuggets were hoping to rebound from a loss to the Sacramento Kings on January 6, 2018.

The Warriors’ starting lineup consisted of Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green, Zaza Pachulia, Klay Thompson and Steph Curry. Golden State pretty much had tonight’s game against Denver from start to finish.

The Warriors made some noteworthy plays in the first quarter. Like this one, embedded in the tweet below.

Jordan Bell got up for the denial late in the first. Then, Bell headed to the line to close out the first. The Warriors were up 37-28 at the end of the first.

Excellent ball movement led to a Thompson three with 5:13 left in the second quarter. Curry and Green also joined the party of threes. The Warriors carried a 64-57 lead to the locker room at the half.

Here are the Warriors’ halftime stats:

The Warriors began the second half on a Curry three that was followed by a couple of Thompson jumpers. Those shots alone were most likely worth votes for the 2018 NBA All-Star Game.

Curry continued to make it rain with threes and the Warriors led the Nuggets 93-81 at the end of the third quarter.

The Warriors’ hustle remained unmatched in the fourth quarter. Curry had 30 points in 32 points.

The Warriors defeated the Nuggets 124-114. With the win, Golden State improved to 33-8.

Here are the Warriors’ final stats:

Notes
Steph Curry was named Western Conference Player of the Week.

First 10,000 fans in the doors received a Klay Thompson bobblehead.

Kevin Durant donated $3 million to his alma mater UT Austin. 

Warriors’ injury report: Kevin Durant (right calf strain) is out. Omri Casspi (hip contusion), Stephen Curry (left knee soreness), Draymond Green (right knee soreness), Andre Iguodala (left knee & hip soreness) & Shaun Livingston (hip tightness) are available to play.

Up Next 
The Warriors host the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday at 7:30 pm PT.

The losing streak is over: Kings beat the Nuggets 106-98 Saturday night in SAC

Carter win over Den
Vince Carter savors the moment; Kings down Nuggets 106-98

by Charlie O. Mallonee

Saturday night did not get off to a great start for the Sacramento Kings who were hoping to end a three-game home losing streak. The Kings announced that they would have to play the game without three of their key players. Zach Randolph could not play because of oral surgery. George Hill was unavailable due to personal reasons, and Frank Mason III was unable to dress because of the contusion to his heel that he suffered in Memphis game.

No team wants to face an opponent like the Nuggets – who average 107.7-points per game – short-handed but that is exactly the situation the Kings faced on Saturday night. FiveThirtyEight.com gave Sacramento just a 36-percent chance of winning the game before the loss of the Randolph, Hill and Mason. The situation looked grim indeed for the Kings before tipoff.

Sacramento went with a starting five of Malachi Richardson, Skal Labissiere, Willie Cauley-Stein, Buddy Hield and De’Aaron Fox. Two seasons from now, this starting five could be the norm but not now, they just do not have enough experience to carry their squad to victory on a regular basis. Fortunately for Kings fans, no one told the starting five that they could not be a winning combination.

The Kings would never trail in the game. The contest was tied one time at 27-27 with 46.7-seconds remaining in the first quarter. Sacramento was never able to open a lead of more than 12-points in the game, but they jealously held on to their lead for the entire contest.

The Kings took a 46-41 lead to the locker room at halftime knowing the real test for them was going to come in the third quarter. The Nuggets have become known as a third quarter team. On Friday night, Denver scored 38-points in the third period to put away the Jazz.

The Nuggets did come on strong in the third quarter scoring 30-points while shooting 50-percent (13-for-26) from the floor. The problem for Denver was Sacramento scored 33-points in third period shooting 54.2-percent from the field (13-for-24) that included converting 4-of-5 attempts from behind the 3-point line. Buddy Hield went a perfect 3-for-3 from downtown in the quarter. The Kings took a 79-71 lead over the Nuggets into the final quarter.

The Nuggets were able to cut the Kings lead to three-points midway through the quarter but that is as close as they would come to taking the lead. Denver could have taken the lead if they could have converted free throw opportunities.

At the 6:38 mark, Garrett Temple fouled the Nuggets center – Mason Plumlee. Plumlee missed both free throws. Less than a minute later, Vince Carter fouled Trey Lyles. The sharp-shooting forward stepped to the line and promptly missed both free throw. Lyles would grab the rebound of his second miss and hit a four-foot jumper that cut the Sacramento lead to just three-points. Converting two of those four free throw opportunities could have changed the outcome of the game.

The Kings opened up a lead of 11-points with 11.9-seconds to go in the game. Gary Harris hit a 3-pointer for the final score of the game which cut the Sacramento winning margin to eight-points – 106-98.

Top Performances

Kings Lion logo

  • Star of the Game: this award goes to the entire Kings team. They could have easily phoned this one in with Z-Bo, Hill and Mason on the shelf. Instead, they pulled it together and took advantage of a very talented team who was playing the second game of a back-to-back set on the road after beating the Jazz at home on Friday. The Kings never trailed in the game. That is a real recovery after suffering three consecutive – demoralizing losses at home.

Co-Star: De’Aaron Fox who played just over 35-minutes while scoring a team-high 18-points. Fox also dished out seven assists while using the dribble-drive to go to the hoop or dish it off to a teammate to score. The rookie PG went to the free throw line eight times and converted six of those opportunities.

  • Co-Star: Willie Cauley-Stein came up big for his team on Saturday night as he grabbed a career-high seven-steals. That is aggressive basketball at any level. The big man also posted 17-points to go with four rebounds and two assists. Cauley-Stein shot 8-for-12 in the contest.

  • Co-Star: Skal Labissiere makes it an all-Kentucky co-star lineup for the Kings on Saturday night. Labissiere not only made the start but he scored 12 points, blocked three shots and hauled in four rebounds in just over 15-minutes of playing time. His coach thought his third-quarter play may have been his best of the season.

Skal

Nuggets 5-DNuggets_2nd

  • Star of the Game: Trey Lyles came off the bench to lead his team and score a game-high 19-points. The third-year forward shot 8-for-11 overall including going 2-for-3 from downtown. Lyles also grabbed nine rebounds. When Lyles and Murray are on the floor together, every team in the NBA should be very, very concerned.

5-Lyles

  • Co-Star: Jamal Murray who recorded 18-points while shooting 7-for-16 from the floor. Murray who hit 6-of-7 from 3-point land versus the Jazz on Friday cooled off against the Kings sinking 3-of-8 three-point opportunities. It may have been fatigue, but Murray really allowed his temper to get the best of him late in the game. He has to learn to let the coach do the arguing while he focuses on the game.

5-Murray

  • Co-Star: Gary Harris really asserted himself in the second-half of the game shooting a perfect 3-for-3 from the floor, 2-for-2 from the charity stripe and dishing out two assists. Harris finished with 17-points for Denver in 36-minutes on the floor.

5-Harris

 

 

 

 

Up Next

Kings: Sacramento will not be able to enjoy this victory for long as they must prepare to face the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night at the Golden 1 Center. The Spurs were in Sacramento on December 23, 2017 and defeated the Kings 108-99.

Nuggets: Denver will not be able to rest on Sunday as they have to prepare to face the World Champion Golden State Warriors in Oakland on Monday night.