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Preview: Denver Nuggets look to remain undefeated against winless Kings

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Phoenix Suns v Denver Nuggets Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

The Denver Nuggets got the job done on Friday night against the Phoenix Suns. It wasn’t pretty, but it goes in the win column regardless of how pretty or ugly it is.

The Nuggets will look to remain undefeated as they head back on the road to take on the Sacramento Kings (0-3). Denver’s last loss was in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals as they went undefeated during the preseason this year. After an upstart year in the 2018-19, the Kings have floundered to start the year, and they haven’t exactly been tough outs in their losses.

They’ve got a fair amount of young talent between De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley III, but they’re massively underwhelming to start the season. Strong guard play has given Denver fits with Jamal Murray being more of an offensive-minded player, so this isn’t a game that the Nuggets should gloss over. This Kings team could easily steal this one if they get hot shooting.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (2-0, 1-0 away) @ Sacramento Kings (0-3, 0-1 home)

When: 8:00 p.m. MST

Where: Golden 1 Center

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy..unless its the romanticized 18th century type. AltitudeTV where available. League Pass for non-Denver market viewers. Show up in Sacramento. 92.5 FM KKSE Altiude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: Sactown Royalty

Expected Starting Lineups:

SAC: PG De’Aaron Fox, SG Buddy Hield, SF Harrison Barnes, PF Dewayne Dedmon, C Nemanja Bjelica

DEN: PG Jamal Murray, SG Gary Harris, SF Will Barton, PF Paul Millsap, C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Marvin Bagley III (thumb) - out, Harry Giles (knee) - questionable, Bol Bol (foot) - out

Three Things to Watch

Stay tight on Hield

The top priority for Denver needs to be slowing down starting shooting guard Buddy Hield. Hield is hoisting over eight 3-point attempts per game, and he’s making 42.3 percent of them. Sacramento allows their guards to do the majority of their offensive damage, and Hield has been spearheading that movement. Denver should work to get Hield involved on defense a lot by forcing him to fight through screens to chase Gary Harris around the floor and wear him out.

This would also give Harris more opportunities to get his shot rolling overall. He’s shooting just 35.0 percent from the floor and 28.6 percent from 3-point range. Denver relies on his outside shooting to space the floor for guys like Jokic, Murray and Barton to do damage on the interior. He’ll be tasked with chasing Hield around throughout the game, and that battle will be a key one to watch. If he loses it, Denver could come up short on the road.

Did the shooters make the trip?

In the team’s first game, Denver shot 16-of-32 from 3-point range. Against the Suns, they were just 7-of-27 from outside. They need to regress back closer to their level they had in the season’s first game. Hitting 3-point shots just makes life easier on everyone except your opponents, just ask the Golden State Warriors who shot teams out of the gym for six years. If Denver’s shots are falling again, this should be an easy win.

The bench needs to show up

When the Nuggets’ starters have struggled this year, the bench has been there to bail them out. Their top two bench players, Malik Beasley and Jerami Grant, are both shooting over 40 percent from 3-point range while Torrey Craig has been able to play reliable defense. The Kings are without one of their starters in Bagley, but they have a bench with a lot of versatility that could cause some issues for the Nuggets who have a relatively simple lineup construction.

Update (9:24 AM): This story was corrected to remove a statement regarding the availability of the Nuggets broadcast. This game is not being shown on KTVD channel 20 in Denver.