Two teams that got an extra day to digest their Thanksgiving feasts get back at it Saturday afternoon when the Sacramento Kings host the Denver Nuggets.
The Nuggets have won five of their six road games this season, including a 101-94 victory at Sacramento in the second week of the season.
The Kings were on a losing streak then — they opened the season with five straight losses — and find themselves skidding a bit now after a couple of narrow losses at the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers to end a four-game trip.
Another powerhouse awaits, but Kings coach Luke Walton is encouraged nonetheless by the team’s competitiveness.
“Our guys have shown that they have that in them, which is great, because at the beginning of the season we didn’t have that ability,” he assured reporters after Wednesday’s 97-91 loss at Philadelphia. “But we have that now, so it’s time to continue to push and get past that, where it’s not just about fighting and not giving in, but it’s about going into arenas and taking games.”
The Nuggets did just that in the earlier meeting, overcoming a poor shooting night (36.7 percent) and a subpar effort from star center Nikola Jokic (nine points, 13 rebounds) to win mostly on the strength of a 19-10 edge in free throw points.
Denver has won six in a row, having just dispatched of the Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards on a four-game homestand.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone clearly had time during the homestand to check out the Kings.
“Buddy Hield is playing at a high level right now,” the former Kings head coach observed at Friday’s practice of the Sacramento star who had a career-high 41 points at Boston before going for 22 more at Philadelphia. “Both Hield in the starting lineup and (Bogdan) Bogdanovic off the bench are a big part of (Sacramento’s improved play of late).
“They’re going to test your defense. It will be a challenge, but I think our guys will be up for it.”
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Kings’ 7-5 run since their poor start has been that it’s come without Marvin Bagley III (broken right thumb) and mostly without De’Aaron Fox (sprained ankle). Neither will play Saturday.
Fox had 20 points and nine assists in the October loss to Denver.
The Nuggets have had no such injury problems this season, with only Will Barton (two games) missing any games among the starters.
Coincidentally, it has been Barton’s durability after missing big chunks of the 2017 and 2019 seasons that has ranked among the Nuggets’ biggest surprises this year.
The veteran forward has scored in double figures in 12 of his 14 games, including registering double-doubles three times.
He ranks second on the team in rebounds (7.0) and third in scoring (15.5), shooting 46 percent overall and 45.2 percent on 3-pointers.
Barton contributed 13 points and nine rebounds to the earlier win at Sacramento.
–Field Level Media