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DeMarcus Cousins, streaking Sacramento Kings battle Denver Nuggets

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Nuggets look to leverage the thin mountain air to wear down the Kings who are on the second night of a back-to-back.

Wilson Chander and Boogie Cousins battle for rebound position
Wilson Chander and Boogie Cousins battle for rebound position
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Game 3: 2014-15 NBA Season
@

2-1 (1-0 away)
Series 0-0
1-1 (1-0 at home)
Nov. 3, 2014
Pepsi Center - Denver, Colorado
7:00 PM MT
Altitude / 950 AM

Darren Collison PG Ty Lawson
Ben McLemore SG Arron Afflalo
Rudy Gay SF Danilo Gallinari
Jason Thompson PF Kenneth Faried
DeMarcus Cousins C Timofey Mozgov
Notes
Sactown Royalty Blogs Denver Stiffs
None Injuries None (Hickson will be serving game 3 of 5 of his suspension) 

The gold band on the back collar of the Kings jersey represents the only title in franchise history in 1951 when the Rochester Royals defeated the New York Knicks in seven games.

Etc... After 38 seasons in the NBA, the Denver Nuggets have never appeared in the Finals.  Only the Clippers' 44 year existence without making the Finals is greater.

The Sacramento Kings visit the Pepsi Center with a two-game winning streak.  Both victories came against Western Conference Playoff teams from a year ago, Portland Trailblazers (last year's fifth seed) and Los Angeles Clippers (last year's third seed).

Denver recently reenacted the Battle of Thermopylae against the eight-deep Oklahoma City Thunder, losing badly despite Denver's superior depth.

This Denver Nuggets team, like last year's team, is still searching for its identity.  They were able to grind out a victory against the Detroit Pistons with good defense and good enough half-court offense.  In the embarrassing loss to Oklahoma City, the only success came with fast paced offense paired with high pressure defense.  Denver's depth should be a strength, but inconsistency in the rotation may do more harm than good.  Coach Brian Shaw rotates between the three centers in six minute increments over the first eighteen minutes of the game.  After that, it appears he will go with whomever he feels is performing best.  JaVale McGee played the entire fourth quarter against the Thunder.  Kenneth Faried didn't play one minute of the last fourth quarter.  The Manimal must be an integral part in closing games and his minutes per game need to increase along with his annual salary. While the roster is fully healthy, the injuries from last season are still affecting the team.  Danilo Gallinari, Nate Robinson, and McGee are on minutes restrictions, further stirring up a volatile rotation.

Ty Lawson has been a non-factor in seven of the first eight quarters.  The offense lives and dies with his ability to attack the basket, either creating his own shot or setting up teammates after drawing in defenders.  No matter who else is on the floor or the pace of the game, Ty must always be aggressive offensively for Denver to have consistent success.

Successful teams like the Spurs have systems in place where each player has a clearly defined role.  Denver's system may rely too much on reacting to the action on the court as opposed to imposing a specific game plan.  As we witnessed against Oklahoma City, the game can already be lost by the time "the guy" asserts himself.

Ice Ice Baby

The Denver Nuggets have shot 26% from three (26th overall) and 39.4% overall from the floor (dead last).  Ice cold!  Expect to see some zone defense from Sacramento, challenging Nugget snipers to shoot from deep.

Gee Whiz

Alonzo Gee successfully shut down DJ Augustine during the 4th quarter against Detroit and played the entire 4th quarter against Oklahoma City where his defense helped spur a comeback.  I expect to see him shadowing Rudy Gay during the final period in this game.

Boogie Man

DeMarcus Cousins put up 34 points and 17 rebounds in a 98-92 victory over the Clippers on Nov. 2nd.  In two games against Denver last season, Cousins averaged 28.5 points and 11.5 rebounds.  Sacramento won both games in which he played.  The Nuggets bigs will need to be physical with Cousins and attempt to goad his emotions into throwing him off his game.  I predict Jusuf Nurkic will foul out within his first six minutes of playing time.

Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control

Sacramento has averaged 19 turnovers per game.  Denver must capitalize on Kings errors by turning their miscues into easy fast break points.  Denver must push the pace to tire their opponent and induce more mistakes.  A Nuggets victory will surely be linked to fast break points and points off turnovers.

Prediction

Denver races out to an early lead and holds on for the victory.  Expect delays in the Taco Bell drive-thru lines come Tuesday, Denver wins 112-97.