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Recap: Nuggets can’t overcome turnover woes, fall to Kings 106-98

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Turnovers. Turnovers. Turnovers.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets turned the ball over a season high 26 times, gifting the Sacramento Kings 40 points en route to a 106-98 loss. Four Nuggets were in double figures, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a balanced Sacramento attack.

As one might expect from a team on a back-to-back, the Nuggets struggled early. Wilson Chandler had four turnovers in the first five minutes (Denver had six in just nine possessions), and Sacramento climbed to an early lead. Jokic hit Plumlee with a beautiful sling pass on the baseline for an easy dunk, but a shot clock violation on the next possession and Michael Malone called for Trey Lyles and Will Barton to check into the game. Willie Caulie-Stein dominated down low and was in double digits early. Malachi Richardson hit a wide open three to put the Kings up 23-11.

But then, spurred by a small ball bench lineup consisting of Will Barton, Wilson Chandler, Malik Beasley, Torrey Craig and Trey Lyles, the Nuggets went on a 16-6 run to close the quarter. Lyles hit two threes and Denver held Sacramento scoreless for several minutes, but the Kings led 29-27 after one.

To be blunt, the second quarter was trash. Both teams couldn’t throw a brick into the ocean, going 0-13 before a Buddy Hield three opened up the scoring. From there, the trend continued. Denver turned the ball over a bunch, both teams missed shots, and the unmercifully the clock seemed to stand still like a long day at the office. Finally in the last three minutes the Nuggets showed some signs of life. Murray and Harris hit threes, and Jokic semi-took over by facilitating a few easy buckets while scoring four points of his own. It wasn’t enough though, as Denver was down 41-46 at half.

Murray started the second half by gifting Sacramento two points on an unbelievably lazy turnover, but somewhat made up for it by scoring a quick five points. Denver cut the lead down to two and forced a Kings timeout, but soon the game turned into a defenseless, back-and-forth affair on both sides. The Nuggets couldn’t catch up, though, and were down by eight after three.

Vince Carter, the ageless wonder, pushed the Sacramento lead to 13 after a quick five points at the start of the fourth. Will Barton retaliated with two threes of his own, and the lead was cut down further from Plumlee-made free throws. Murray started heating up and hit two three of his own and Denver stayed alive, but they also missed five huge free throws in the fourth quarter. The Nuggets hit some big shots but just couldn’t get it done on the defensive end. Final score: Kings 106, Nuggets 98.

Game Notes

  • This was ugly. The Nuggets had 26 turnovers for 40 Kings points and that was the story of the game. It was Denver’s third game in four nights, but that’s no excuse for lazy and telegraphed passes and piss-poor execution. They played well enough elsewhere to stay in the game all night, but against a better team this would have been a blowout loss. You can’t gift anyone 40 points and expect to come out with a W.
  • Trey Lyles: 19 points, 9 rebounds. 8-11 shooting. Dude can play. Had some horribly bad passes, but overall another good night.
  • Jokic defaulted to his “facilitator only” mode again. He still had a good night - 8 points, 10 assists, 7 rebounds - but he only took 10 field goal attempts and wasn’t looking to score. On most nights this isn’t an issue, but sometimes you need your best player to just take over. For example, when he checked into the game in the fourth quarter, there was 6:17 left and the Nuggets were down five. It was a prime opportunity for him to get going, but he just didn’t. I don’t think it’s anything to overreact about. I would just like to see him be a little more aggressive on offense.