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Recap: Nuggets hold off late push by Kings for win on the road

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It was a slog, but the Nuggets came out on top

Denver Nuggets v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The Denver Nuggets started the game in Sacramento strong behind shooting guard Gary Harris, but that quickly faded. The Sacramento Kings had some hot shooting, and they were able to take an 8-point lead at the end of the first-quarter thanks in large part to the contributions of backup center Richaun Holmes.

In the second-quarter, the Nuggets were able to get a little more going, but they still only won the quarter by one point. Denver’s 3-point shooting wasn’t there at all in the first half, and that’s shown with how they’ve struggled to get out to leads in the last two games. As we’ve seen through the first two games, passing remains an issue for this team, especially among the starters that aren’t named Nikola Jokic.

Sacramento’s offense was operating around the 3-point line, and it was working in their favor. Denver was unable to contain Holmes all night long. The bench and starting bigs just couldn’t do anything against him, and it’s a trend that we’ve seen remain constant through three games. Denver struggles to play defense in the paint. Jokic and backup center Mason Plumlee aren’t going to magically become elite rim-protectors, but something needs to change.

In the second half, the third quarter was when Denver got stuff rolling. They were able to extend their lead to 12, which was their largest of the game. A major part of what helped them build their lead was their edge in the rebounding column. During their third-quarter run, they were grabbing nearly every available board. They ultimately finished the night +7 in the rebounding column with the final tally being 54-47.

Passing remains an issue for this team. Despite making the same amount of shots, 36 as the Kings, they finished with just 19 assists compared to 25 for Sacramento. Nearly half of their buckets were unassisted, and that’s just not a reliable formula for the long-term success of this team. They’re also not getting from their leading passer from last year, Jokic, as his first assist didn’t come until the third quarter.

After going on a long run to stretch their lead, the Nuggets got back-to-back steals that lead to a 3-point make by Gary Harris and a dunk from Murray. After that, the Nuggets lead shrank all the way down to two before Will Barton, in a mad scramble, was able to snag the ball and kind of flick it towards the backboard, where it fell in to put Denver back up by four.

After relying on their defense to get a stop in their win over the Phoenix Suns on Friday night, it was the offense’s ability to get a timely bucket that sealed this one.

The team’s ability to get a win on the road, especially early in the season could prove far more important later in the year. When it comes down to seeding, these wins against a conference opponent are going to count for a lot. Denver is showing there are chinks in the armor that they have to iron out.

It will be interesting to see if head coach Michael Malone expands the rotation from 10 players to give more players rest. The starters are playing around 30 minutes per game, which isn’t overwhelming, but, considering the depth this team has, it wouldn’t be the worst move. Denver wasn’t able to blow the doors off of them, but they were able to get the win, which is all we care about at the end of the day.