The Sacramento Kings came into Denver and showed no signs of fatigue as they lead throughout most of the game. A balanced scoring attack lead by Darren Collison's 21 points was enough to outlast the scrappy Denver Nuggets, 110-105. Demarcus Cousins added 19 points and Rudy Gay had 14 points. Former Nugget Reggie Evans lead all rebounders with 14 total. Denver had seven players in double figures. JaVale McGee and Arron Afflalo lead all Nuggets with 16 points each.
The only person on the court able to impose his will in the first half was Joey Crawford. There were 32 total fouls called in the opening half. The Nuggets bigs were whistled early and often. Coach Brian Shaw called McGee's number first to replace Timofey Mozgov after two early fouls. McGee found himself in early foul trouble after just over two minutes of entering into the game and Jusuf Nurkic was the third center to enter for Denver in the first 7 minutes of the game. Both teams shot well from the line, Sacramento 21-24 and Denver 15-18 over the first 24 minutes. Neither team slowed down from the line in the second half either. The Kings finished 40-47 and the Nuggets 28-33. Despite the high percentages from the charity stripe, the smooth stroke from the line didn't carry over into game action for either team.
Denver shot 38.7% from the field and an anemic 20.1% from three. Sacramento did not shoot much better, 42% and 22.2%, but when the bar is set so low it is hard for another professional basketball team not to better your effort.
Denver came out attacking early and were not content to stand back and take whatever shots the Sacramento defense would allow. Ty Lawson was driving furiously to the hole. His shots were not falling, finishing 1-8, but he was drawing fouls and setting up open looks for his teammates. Unfortunately, his teammates were unable to capitalize on their open looks. It wasn't until Chandler found success driving to the rack that his three point shot finally came through, nailing his only three pointer of the game late in the fourth quarter. His defense on Gay was fantastic. This was accentuated when Alonzo Gee was schooled by Gay resulting in an and-1 during the fourth quarter. Gee's stock as a fourth quarter defensive secret weapon is yielding diminishing returns, but I like his energy and maybe the taller Gay was more than he could chew. Rudy Gay > DJ Augustin.
Missed shots were not limited to outside the paint. The low post offensive attack from Kenneth Faried, Mozgov, and Nurkic resulted in 11-25 shooting with 8 turnovers. Manimal played 38 quiet minutes. Sacramento's Jason Thompson was effectively pesky and even instigated a technical on Faried when Kenneth argued a no-call in the first quarter. Darrell Arthur, Nate Robinson, and McGee were extremely efficient scorers, but neither logged over 16 minutes. Could they have maintained their numbers over an additional 5 or 10 minutes, I don't know. When a team this deep struggles, it can seem covering one leak only leads to exposing another leak.
Before any Stiffs jump off the edge, rest assured that Denver isn't going to shoot this poorly for an entire season. This is an early cold spell that will right itself. The players and schemes currently in place are setting the Nuggets up to succeed. The shots haven't fallen but when they do, we will be in for some exciting upsets instead of disappointing losses to teams once considered also-rans. Right now our faith is being tested, but it will make the payoff that much better.
Ben McLemore is bad.
Gallo may take longer to break from this cold spell than any other Nugget.
Nik Stauskas only registered two stat categories: 2 minutes played and 3 personal fouls.
I give you, The Triple Flop!