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Preview: Nuggets look to avoid trap game against the Kings

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This is the sort of game the Nuggets should win, but often lost last year. Which makes tonight something of a statement game

NBA: Utah Jazz at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

The 3-0 Nuggets host the 2-1 Kings tonight in the fourth game in six nights for Denver. The Nuggets won a hard-fought road opener against the Los Angeles Clippers, smashed the Phoenix Suns in Denver’s home opener and then took down the defending champion Golden State Warriors in a nail-biter and one of the most tightly-contested games of the early season.

An encore against the Kings is just the sort of game that last year’s Nuggets would fail to wake up for. The Kings are motivated coming off a defeat of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and several of their young players are showing out despite a 1-2 Kings-like start to the year for Sacramento. They can score and hand Denver some offensive runs so the Nuggets need to hold them down like they have the rest of their opponents this year in order to avoid the trap game, keeping the momentum they’ve built though the first week of the season.

The Basics

Who: Sacramento Kings (1-2) at Denver Nuggets (3-0)

When: 7:00 PM MDT

Where: The Can, Denver, CO

How to watch: Altitude TV, AltitudeNOW.com and the AltitudeNOW App

How to Listen: Altitude Radio 92.5 FM

Rival Blog: Sactown Royalty

Injury Report

Will Barton (hip/groin) - out, Isaiah Thomas (hip) - out, Michael Porter Jr. (back) - out, Jarred Vanderbilt (foot) - out, Jamal Murray (lower leg) - probable, Bogdan Bogdanovic (knee - out), Kosta Koufos (hamstring) - doubtful

Three Things to Watch

Sacramento’s offense. They haven’t scored fewer than 117 points in any game this season, and while they can’t stop an angry paper bag - let alone the sort of threat that Nikola Jokic is - thus far they have the look of a fun team that isn’t afraid to go out and compete on offense and let the chips fall where they may.

That’s just the sort of team that could find confidence if Denver doesn’t step on them early. De’Aaron Fox is a slasher that Denver may struggle to contain with Will Barton on the shelf and Jamal Murray hampered by that tibia contusion that gave him a serious limp for half the game against the Warriors. Jokic and Millsap should be more than a match for Marvin Bagley III, Willie Cauley-Stein, Harry Giles and the rest of Sacramento’s scrappy youngsters, but Denver will need to take the Kings seriously - which isn’t always the case for Sacramento.

Denver’s wing depth. Barton is out, which likely means Torrey Craig is starting. His defense against Kevin Durant was nothing short of ferocious, but he’s not a scorer at this stage of his career. Jamal Murray is a scorer, but hasn’t found his stroke yet and will need to overcome that leg issue to be able to drive the hoop or get his legs under him from the field. This may be a game for Malik Beasley to show up heavy in the box score, or for Juancho Hernangomez to go off from deep, but regardless they’ll need someone to pick up the scoring slack. Denver has a deep team, and these are the games for them to swing the balance with their young bench talent.

A winning hangover. Nikola Jokic just won the player of the week. The team is undefeated. They’ve had a couple of days to celebrate at home - will this team come out with the same effort and intensity against the Kings that they showed against the Warriors? It doesn’t do any good to beat the Warriors and lose to the Kings, and those are the sorts of slips this team made the last two years en route to missing the playoffs. If this year really will be different, then beating the teams they should beat is the least Denver should expect of itself.

Prediction: Denver will lose it’s three-game streak of holding opponents under a hundred points but will still handily get the victory, 118-105.