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