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Preview: Nuggets look to answer the Sacramento question

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Coach Michael Malone still hasn’t won against his former squad. Can the Nuggets do it tonight?

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Sacramento Kings Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets are the ultimate seesaw, playing with the emotions of fans since the beginning of this season (and honestly, since their inception). After winning three of their previous four games, very few players came to play against the Charlotte Hornets. In spite of that, Denver nearly won the game, coming as close as 100-96 late in the fourth quarter, showing just how talented they are. The problem has always been closing games, and four points was as close as Denver got to Charlotte.

If the Nuggets come out the same way against the Sacramento Kings tonight, they will meet the same fate, and that simply cannot happen. The schedule is extremely favorable for the Nuggets over the next seven games, and Denver must take advantage if they want to be the 8th seed in the playoffs come April. Charlotte was a winnable game that Denver dropped. The Kings are on the second night of a back-to-back after losing to the Utah Jazz in overtime. Denver simply cannot drop anymore games to sub .500 teams if they want to be taken seriously.

The Basics:

Who: Denver Nuggets (28-34) vs Sacramento Kings (25-37)

When: Monday, March 6th at 7:00 pm

Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO

How to watch: Altitude, AM 950

Rival Blog: Sactown Royalty

Position Nuggets Kings Advantage
PG Jameer Nelson Ty Lawson Kings
SG Gary Harris Darren Collison Nuggets
SF Danilo Gallinari Arron Afflalo Nuggets
PF Wilson Chandler Willie Cauley-Stein Even
C Nikola Jokic Kosta Koufus Nuggets
Bench Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Juancho Hernangomez, Darrell Arthur, Mason Plumlee Garrett Temple, Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Anthony Tolliver, Skal Labissiere Even

Injury Report: Nikola Jokic - questionable (illness), Kenneth Faried - out (back spasms), Rudy Gay - out (achilles), Malachi Richardson - unknown (hamstring)

Key Matchup - Kings’ speed versus Nuggets’ decision making

Last time these two teams matched up, the Nuggets had no answer for the speed of the Sacramento Kings. At every position (except Center when Kosta Koufus plays), the Kings match up exceptionally well athletically with the Nuggets. Speedy guards like Ty Lawson and Darren Collison give Jameer Nelson, Gary Harris, and every other Nuggets guard problems on the defensive. Agile and athletic bigs like Willie Cauley-Stein give Nikola Jokic and Mason Plumlee problems. Usually, the Nuggets would have Kenneth Faried to match up with this kind of player, but right now, Faried is in bad shape physically and will be out again.

Because of this, Denver will need to play a different game than they tried to play last time. The Kings scored at will against the Nuggets due to their speed and ability to break down the pick and roll. Denver must be more aggressive in their coverages to get the ball out of the ball handler’s hands. Once they do that, recovering like crazy will be the only way to generate misses out of this Kings team. Their shooters are good enough from all spots to hit three jumpers in a row, and they have the athleticism to slice down the lane and change the momentum of a game with a dunk. Offensively, Denver must make the game more simple and give the ball to Nikola Jokic, who only had seven field goal attempts and two assists against the Kings. Taking it out of his hands causes problems when players like Jameer Nelson, Will Barton, Danilo Gallinari, and Wilson Chandler try to do too much with the ball in their hands.

Opening thought: Giving a darn about basketball

This isn’t just a problem anymore. This is a liability. Yes, the Nuggets don’t match up well with the Kings. I don’t care. Malone is 0-6 against his current team and they need to get him a win to get this monkey off his back. The energy tonight needs to be the best it has ever been. Getting loose balls, taking charges, chasing the Kings off the three point line, making the extra pass. All of those things are how the Kings won last game, and frankly, it was embarrassing that Denver couldn’t match up with them. I really hope Denver takes it personally and comes out aggressive this time. If they don’t, the 8th seed looks less and less likely.