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Preview: Nuggets face Kings on back-to-back

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After playing the Golden State Warriors Monday night, the Nuggets play the Sacramento Kings at Pepsi Center.

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

After fighting valiantly against the Golden State Warriors last night, the Denver Nuggets return home to face the Sacramento Kings on a back to back. Putting together such a great effort against the most daunting team in the league is no small task, and the Nuggets passed that test with flying colors. The next step is coming to play against a worse opponent.

What this Nuggets team has yet to learn is that all games matter just the same, and putting together the same effort that they had against the Warriors would decimate a sub .500 team like the Kings. The problem the Nuggets have had is harnessing the same motivation every night. Who knows whether the Nuggets will show up motivated or not for this one, but if they do, I expect them to win at home.

The Basics

Who: Sacramento Kings (14-19) vs Denver Nuggets (14-20)

When: 7:00 PM MST

Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO

How to watch: Altitude, AM 950

Rival Blog: Sactown Royalty

Position Nuggets Kings Advantage
PG Emmanuel Mudiay Darren Collison Kings
SG Gary Harris Ben McLemore Nuggets
SF Danilo Gallinari Matt Barnes Nuggets
PF Wilson Chandler Kosta Koufus Nuggets
C Nikola Jokic DeMarcus Cousins Kings?
Bench Jameer Nelson, Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Kenneth Faried, Jusuf Nurkic Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, Garrett Temple, Anthony Tolliver, Willie Cauley-Stein? Nuggets

Injury Report: Kenneth Faried - questionable (back), Darrell Arthur - questionable (knee), Jameer Nelson - questionable (abdomen), Rudy Gay - out (hip flexor), Arron Afflalo - probable (elbow), Ty Lawson - probable (sinus fracture)

Key matchup: DeMarcus Cousins vs Nikola Jokic

Is it that obvious? If it makes anyone feel better, I don’t know if either guy defends the other. Wilson Chandler may be a better candidate to defend Cousins to avoid Jokic picking up a bundle of fouls, while Kosta Koufus may defend Jokic since he can’t stick with Chandler on the perimeter. That being said, it doesn’t matter. Cousins has been a topic of conversation for Nuggets fans that want to trade for a superstar. With Cousins’ connection to head coach Michael Malone, it makes a degree of sense too. That being said, Jokic has proven that he can be Denver’s super star during the last month. Fresh off of a 21 point, 13 rebound, 5 assist performance against the Warriors, Jokic will be asked to come up big again against a Kings team competing for the 8 seed. Cousins will likely put up a bigger stat line, but if Jokic can come close to matching him, the Nuggets will have a great chance in this game.

Key to victory: Prevent dribble penetration

The Nuggets did a great job of preventing free looks in the paint against the Warriors last night. Unfortunately, the Warriors made countless shots with a high degree of difficulty, including this doozy by Kevin Durant at the end of the first quarter.

There still needs work done. Danilo Gallinari and Jameer Nelson have really struggled containing the player in front of them lately, but it doesn’t hurt that badly unless Denver helps off of three point shooters. When they leave open shooters, those guys usually knock down shots, compromising the Nuggets’ defensive scheme. Hopefully, the Nuggets live with Koufus floaters and Collison mid range jump shots instead.

Prediction: Nuggets 102 - Kings 98

I believe that the Nuggets are in a good place right now. After a bad loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, Denver came out with fire against a better team. They HAVE to understand by now that putting this effort into every single game is what will earn them the wins they desperately want. The Kings are banged up, and this situation should remind Denver of the Philly game. If Denver can put in a focused effort throughout 48 minutes, they will come out of the game with a win.