Can you remember the first two games the Nuggets played against the Kings this season?

In the Nuggets first game of the season, they played a sloppy game against the Kings, messing around and losing in overtime. Harrison Barnes stole the ball from Nikola Jokic in the final seconds, and Buddy Hield tipped in after Will Barton blocked Barnes’ layup attempt. If you thought watching Hield run off the court again against the Nuggets was painful, then watching Tyrese Haliburton help power an 11-0 run in the final minutes in the second game to put the Kings up by 12 probably shouldn’t be on your rewatch list anytime soon.

There’s no beating around the bush — the Nuggets need to win this game. Getting swept by the Kings in a season where the Nuggets are attempting to return to the playoffs is inexcusable. Good teams don’t get swept by teams that won’t make the playoffs. A good coach doesn’t get beaten three times in one season by a team coached by Luke Walton. Are the Nuggets a good team? The Kings have won five of six and are starting to look much better.

“I would say good teams don’t beat themselves, but that would be giving (us) a compliment we don’t deserve,” Coach Michael Malone said about the Nuggets after their second loss.

Let’s see if they can be a good team today.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (12-9) vs Sacramento Kings (10-11)

When: 3:00 PM MT

Where: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, California

How to Watch: NBA TV (You cannot watch this on League Pass)

Rival Blog: Sactown Royalty

Projected Matchups

PG Jamal Murray De'Aaron Fox Nuggets
SG Gary Harris Buddy Hield Even
SF Will Barton Harrison Barnes Even
PF Paul Millsap Marvin Bagley III Even
C Nikola Jokic Richaun Holmes Nuggets
BENCH Monté Morris, Facu Campazzo, Michael Porter Jr, JaMychal Green, Isaiah Hartenstein Glenn Robinson III, Hassan Whiteside, Tyrese Haliburton, Cory Joseph Even

Injury Report: PJ Dozier (out – hamstring); Jamal Murray, Facu Campazzo, Gary Harris (day-to-day)

Three Things to Watch

Will the Nuggets avoid a crunch-time scenario? The Kings may be a mess, but they’re starting to figure things out at the end of games, courtesy of their first round pick, Tyrese Haliburton. Haliburton gives them a jack-of-all-trades option on the court, taking Bagley’s place with the other starters. That five-man lineup can play aggressive defense, generating steals and fastbreak opportunities while also being dangerous on offense with the floor spacing of Barnes and Hield combined with the speed of Fox on the attack. With the Nuggets still somehow trying to figure out what their best five-man lineup is, that makes them vulnerable to teams that have a group they can trust when the game is on the line.

Can someone on the Nuggets knock down shots? We all marvel at Nikola Jokic’s ability to share the ball. It’s tremendous the way that he is able to break down a defense with his knowledge of the game, touch, and courage, attempting and making passes few players, regardless of position, would try in a competitive game. But the big fella hasn’t had a double-digit assist game in weeks, and frankly, it’s because his teammates aren’t converting opportunities. Did you know the Nuggets have a player on their bench that is shooting 46 percent from three? Did you know he hasn’t played over 20 minutes in the team’s last three games? Maybe he could help in that area.

Will Michael Malone avoid another loss to the Kings? The Nuggets are 10-9 against the Kings since Malone took the job. I get how hard it can be to get over someone that did you wrong — believe me, it’s not an easy task. But figuring out how to be better and move on from a slight is a characteristic of personal strength. Let’s take a deep breath, not take this game personally, and take care of business against a dangerous team.


Kings 115 – Nuggets 113