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.

Kings get winded at 5280 feet and lose to Denver 96-79

by Charlie O. Mallonee

Den-ZBo
Zach Randolph scored 11 points and grabbed 9 rebounds on Saturday night Photo: USA Today

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.

Top Performances

Den-Skal
Labissiere came off the bench to score 13 points for SAC Photo: USA Today Sports

Kings

  • 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.

Nuggets

Den-Farid
Faried came off the bench to score 18 points for the Nuggets Photo USA Today Sports
  • 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.

Team Performances

It was not a beautiful game for either team.

Sacramento (1-2)

  • 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.

Denver (1-1)

  • 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.

Up next

Sacramento

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.

Denver

The Nuggets will return to action on Wednesday in Charlotte versus the Hornets. Denver is a 2.5-point underdog according FiveThirtyEight.

Final Note

Den-Malone
Denver head coach Michael Malone Photo USA Today Sports

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.

Nuggets down Kings 105-92; here’s your 2:20 game wrap

by Charlie O. Mallonee

nuggets hield
Buddy Hield scores 2 of his 17 points Photo NBAE

The Sacramento Kings have lost eight consecutive games – head coach Dave Joerger has an interesting reaction and response

This was the final game of the year between the Nuggets and Kings. The season series ends 2-2. Each team won a game on its homecourt and lost a game on the road.

Where the teams stand after the game

  • Denver’s record improves to 31-35
  • The Nuggets have won two games in a row
  • Denver remains in eighth place in the Western Conference two games ahead of ninth place Portland and five games behind seventh place Memphis
  • Sacramento’s season record drops to 25-41
  • The Kings have dropped into 13th place in the Western Conference one game behind 12th place New Orleans and six games behind Denver in the final playoff slot
  • The Kings are three games ahead of 14th place Phoenix
  • Sacramento has 16 games remaining in the regular season

Miss seeing the game? Highlights are here

Click here to see video highlights from Saturday’s game between the Nuggets and the Kings

Top performers

Nuggets

  • Former Michigan State star Gary Harris scored a game-high 24 points shooting 10-for-15 from the field
  • Center Nikoia Jokic recorded a double-double putting up 20 points and grabbing 14 rebounds
  • Forward Danilo Gallinari added 15 points

Kings

  • Rookie Buddy Hield was the Kings leading scorer with 17 points. He shot 6-for-8 from the floor including three 3-point buckets. Hield also had three assists
  • Tyreke Evans made an impact coming off the bench adding 15 points
  • Willie Cauley-Stein added 13 points, five rebounds and five assists for Sacramento. Head coach Dave Joerger wants to see Cauley-Stein have more assist opportunities
nuggets evans
Tyreke Evans was a force off the bench Photo NBAE

Weird stat of the night

The Nuggets committed nine turnovers in the game but the Kings were able to score just four points off those turnovers. Compare that to the Kings who committed 13 turnovers that resulted in 22 points for Denver.

Up next on the schedule

The Kings will be back on their homecourt on Monday night when they host the Orlando Magic. The Magic are also a budding “Draft Lottery” team.

The Nuggets will also be back in action on Monday when they host the Los Angeles Lakers in the Mile High City.

 

No Cousins, no Rondo, no problem! Kings beat Denver 115-106

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Denver Nuggets
Photo Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

by Charlie O. Mallonee

The Kings plan for Saturday night in Denver was simple and straight forward. Leave Cousins and Rondo at home to rest, give the younger players some much needed playing time and put on a good show in the “Mile High City”.

No there was no mention of winning the game. Wins are secondary for Sacramento at this point in the season. In fact, the Kings need to finish in the bottom 10 of the NBA overall standings to avoid losing their 2016 first-round draft pick (listen to this week’s Kings podcast for the details). It is not that the Kings do not want to win but winning might not be that helpful at this moment.

Something strange can happen when you give the second unit a chance to play more minutes. Those second unit guys want to step up and show the world they got game. That is what happened on Saturday in Denver.

The Kings allowed the Nuggets to set the pace in the first half. Denver scored 62 points in the first half and appeared to ready to run the Kings off the court in the second half, but someone from the Nuggets forgot to tell Seth Curry to go along the plan.

Curry carried the Kings on his back in the first half scoring 17 points while connecting on 7-of-8 shots from the floor. The Kings would go on to score 55 first-half points and trailed the Nuggets by just seven points at the half.

The teams played an even third quarter with the Kings outscoring the Nuggets 29-26 in the period. The Nuggets still had an 88-84 after three quarters.

The Kings caught fire in the fourth quarter outscoring the Nuggets 31-18 in final 12 minutes. Darren Collison led the charge for Sacramento scoring 10 of his 14 points in last quarter. Collison shot 2-for-4 from the floor and converted 6-of-7 opportunities from the free throw line. He also dished out four assists. Ben McLemore scored eight points and Rudy Gay added five points in the period.

At the final buzzer, the Kings had beaten the Nuggets 115-106 to record their 31st win of the season.

Kings

Rudy Gay led the Kings scoring attack on Saturday with 25 points. Gay also grabbed nine rebounds and had three assists. He shot 7-for-18 from the floor and an impressive 10-for-13 from the charity stripe.

Willie Cauley-Stein, Ben McLemore and Darren Collison scored 14 points each.

Kosta Koufos and James Anderson added 13 points each.

The most impressive stat of the night for the Kings was their assists to turnover ratio of 4-to-1. Sacramento had 27 assists and turned the ball over just seven times. Not bad for a team that has been averaging 16 turnovers per game.

Sacramento was also strong at the free throw line hitting on 25-of-31 attempts for a 80.6- free throw shooting percentage. For the season, the Kings have shot just 72.7-percent from the free throw line.

This was also just third time the Kings have won when DeMarcus Cousins did not play in the game. They have lost 11 games when Cousins was not available.

Nuggets

Gary Harris led the Nuggets in scoring with 19 points. Harris had four rebounds and two assists to go with those 19 points.

Rookie Emmanuel Mudiay had a strong game scoring 15 points and dishing out six assists. Mudiay did foul out of the game.

Joffrey Lauvergne played a strong 24 minutes off the bench for Denver. He scored 15 points, grabbed six rebounds and had two assists in those minutes on the floor.

Alex Toupane scored a career-high 14 points off the bench for the Nuggets.

Up next

The Kings have just three games left to play in Sleep Train (Arco) Arena. Portland visits Sacramento on Tuesday and Minnesota comes calling on Thursday night. The Kings final game ever in the arena they have called home for 28 years will take place next Saturday night when they host Oklahoma City Thunder. This reporter will be filing the story live from the arena that night.