The Denver Nuggets are on the second half of their first back to back of the season. After vanquishing the Houston Rockets last evening the Nuggets hopped on a plane to Northern California and prepare to face the Sacramento Kings tonight. The victory over Houston was Denver’s first of the season and now they have the opportunity to get the Kings back for the overtime loss they handed the Nuggets on Opening Night. It will be a test of determination for vengeance vs early morning arrival fatigue.

It will also be the first test of the season to see how coach Michael Malone adjusts. Not even a week ago the Nuggets were unable to stop Buddy Hield, De’Aaron Fox and Harrison Barnes while failing to execute on offense twice in clutch situations. They also squandered a first half lead. The Nuggets will have to find more production from someone outside of Nikola Jokic, who notched a triple double in the first meeting of these teams, and Michael Porter Jr. Those two combined for over 43% over Denver’s total scoring last Wednesday.

The Essentials

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

When: 8:00 PM MST

Where: Golden 1 Center. Sacramento, California.

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy…unless its the romanticized 18th-century type. Altitude TV where available, League Pass for non-Denver market viewers. Tell security at Golden 1 Center your Vlade Divac’s assistant here to pick up a few things he forgot. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio.

Rival Blog: The Kings Herald

Position Nuggets Pacers Advantage
PG Monte Morris Malcolm Brogdon Pacers
SG Jamal Murray Justin Holiday Nuggets
SF Will Barton Doug McDermott Even
PF Michael Porter Jr. Domantas Sabonis Pacers
C Nikola Jokic Myles turner Nuggets
Bench P.J. Dozier, Zeke Nnaji, Isaiah Hartenstein, Vlatko Cancar T.J. McConnell, Jeremy Lamb, Edmond Sumner, Aaron Holiday Pacers

Player availability: DaQuan Jeffries – questionable (back). The Denver Nuggets did not submit their injury report at time of writing, for injury updates check the NBA official injury report.

Three things to watch for:

Key Matchup: Gary Harris vs Buddy Hield

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It’s no secret that Gary’s shot has been less than accurate to start the year and thus his offense has suffered. Still, Gary in theory gives you a lockdown defender to thrown at opposing guards and that should play into Denver’s hands well against a team like Sacramento whose primary scoring options are their guards. That’s not what happened in the meeting last week though. Hield and Fox both topped twenty points (along with Barnes) and hit some very big shots along the way, none bigger than Hield’s tip-in at the buzzer. Now that’s not all on Gary because no Nuggets guard played well on defense in the opener, but he’s got to be better tonight. If Gary can lock up either Hield or Fox it’s going to go a long way to a Nuggets victory.

Key point: it’s going to be harder this time

In a lot of ways Denver outplayed the Kings last week but just failed to execute down the stretch. Jokic fouled on a screen at the end of regulation, then got mugged and turned over the ball at the end of overtime. Despite some bad perimeter defense and lousy shooting from their backcourt, the Nuggets were right there. Denver can’t expect to make the same mistakes and have a chance to win again. It was the third quarter that turned the tides in Sacramento’s favor last week, it’s paramount to ensure that doesn’t happen again but the Nuggets will have to do it while on a road second half of a back to back.

Opening thought: need the backcourt to score

Jamal Murray came alive in the second half of the Los Angeles Clippers game and followed it up with a tidy 21 points on 14 shots last night. Harris had his best game offensively this season last night as well. Those two guys have to build on their momentum tonight and pitch in. Nikola Jokic isn’t catching anyone by surprise and while that might not matter much you can count on the Kings gameplan tonight to be stop Nikola at all costs. Porter had a big game against Sacramento last week as well but he’s still developing his consistency so it’s not the best idea to count on him to provide 20+ points again tonight. That’s got to come from Jamal or Gary. Last night was encouraging, a big game tonight would go even further to ease the minds of Nuggets Nation.