The Denver Nuggets laid a gigantic egg in the fourth quarter of their loss to the Utah Jazz, and look to right the ship in their home opener against the Sacramento Kings. The Kings got their first victory of the season last night and Denver needs to take advantage of its opponent being on a back-to-back at altitude. The Nuggets are celebrating their history tonight with all 6 retired jersey owners in the building and special events all day – but the most important capper for that event is a win to kick off this season’s defense of the home court on a better foot than last year’s. Doug Moe, Alex English, Dikembe Mutombo, Byron Beck, Dan Issel, and David Thompson all deserve to see a Nuggets win in person on a day like today – let’s see it.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (0-1) vs Sacramento Kings (1-1)

When: Saturday, October 21st at 7:00 PM MST

Where: Pepsi Center in Denver, CO

How to watch: Altitude

Rival blog: Sactown Royalty

Injury report: DEN: Richard Jefferson (doesn’t know the plays) – doubtful,

Three things to watch

  • Don’t get cocky. Last year, Denver had a troubling issue with disaster quarters. The trend started early when they had a 16 point 4th quarter that let the Portland Trail Blazers come roaring back to tie the game and then win it in overtime in last season’s home opener. The Nuggets have already demonstrated their ability to let bad situations snowball this year, and that can’t happen tonight.

Tonight is about celebrating the past successes of this team and showing that they are set up for future success. It’s hard to get media and fan attention in Denver when the Denver Broncos are playing (or merely existing, but lets focus on playing for now). If the Nuggets would like to make a play for eyes on their product, tonight is a good place to start. They have a beatable opponent, a lot of fan energy in the house, and lots of pagentry. It won’t be a normal game, but what home opener is? Hopefully the first loss of the season focused the team, and they take care of business tonight rather than let the Kings hang around and steal one.

  • Guard play. George Hill scored 21 over 32 minutes in last night’s victory over the Dallas Mavericks, adding 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 5 turnovers to the stat line. The Nuggets employ a pair of point guards who specialize in being young. Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay combined for 16 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 turnovers in 37 minutes. Hill is a good guard on a team that is still working to make all its disparate pieces work together, and Denver needs to take advantage of some of Sacramento’s growing pains. If Denver’s two-headed point guard can just cancel out Hill’s influence on the game it will go a long way toward notching that victory.

Gary Harris should not just cancel out Buddy Hield. If he wants to live up to that contract, these are the matchups Harris needs to take personally. Harris is actually younger than Hield, but Gary has the experience, the system fit and the talent to underscore why he is a top shooting guard in this league.

  • Focus on Jokic. I harp on that a lot from the Denver side, but it’s true from Sacramento’s side as well. Nikola Jokic doesn’t really have a security blanket this year. He’s not sneaking up on anybody and the point guards on the roster are even younger than he is. Will Barton is a shooting guard trying to play backup point for a squad that needs him as a do-everything ball handler and offensive jump-starter off the bench, but his time with Jokic will be limited.

With defenses keying on the Serbian lynchpin to the offense, he’ll have to figure out how to make it work with Paul Millsap playing a different role than the power forwards he’s played with previously, and he’ll have to do it in real time during games. Sacramento has Kosta Koufos and Willie Cauley-Stein, two strong centers who are not Rudy Gobert but who should try to get up in Jokic’s grill. They have Zach Randolph, king of the sort-of-dirty-but-basically-brilliant play who will do everything he can to keep Millsap from his preferred shots and off-schedule, thus interrupting his timing. The front court game could get messy tonight as both teams focus on Jokic, but if Jokic can’t overcome the Kings of the world he’s gonna have a ton of trouble with the rest of the West. I expect him to rise above.

Prediction: the Nuggets weather the extended halftime, the history lesson and the Kings and win going away in the fourth, 116-105.

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