The Denver Nuggets lost a close game to the Sacramento Kings Tuesday night, 114-110, dropping their third straight to fall to 22-35 this season.

Will Barton led the Nuggets with 18 points off the bench, but shot 6 of 18 in about 27 minutes on a night when the Nuggets defense let them down once again. DeMarcus Cousins bullied his way through the Nuggets bigs, feasting for 39 points and 9 rebounds.

It was tough to watch at times as Cousins repeatedly worked his way to the rim to violently stuff the ball through the rim with a Nuggets defender on the floor. The league may be trending towards a 3-point, spread offense, but as long as humans like Cousins exist, there's going to be a place for post players.

The Nuggets started off the game well, picking up an 8-2 lead before the Kings stopped messing around and began sticking it to Denver. Gary Harris was aggressive driving towards the rim, but the shots weren't falling for him and he didn't drive to the rim the rest of the game with the same intensity. Darren Collison came in for Rajon Rondo and the Kings went on a 7-0 run to take a 28-25 lead.

JaKarr Sampson got his first minutes in a Nuggets uniform, and had a huge rejection on his first play. It would be his only positive moment of the night, with a couple airballs, a Nurkic hook shot (no rim, all backboard), and a shot attempt where he lost the ball going up. The Nuggets defense continued to allow the Kings to attempt uncontested jumpers or get shots up near the rim, and the Kings became the latest team to score 60 points or more in the first half against the Nuggets.

One thing of note was Malone's decision to bring in Joffrey Lauvergne in to relieve Nikola Jokic rather than Jusuf Nurkic. The second-year center was active, but Malone decided to not utilize him in a game where his physicality could have been used to help check Cousins.

The fourth quarter is Will Barton time, and the Nuggets finally started to get shot attempts to fall and played some defense. Darrell Arthur earned his game check, knocking down his fourth 3-pointer and The Thrill helping power a run to cut the lead to 93-91. D.J. Augustin continued the 2015-16 Nuggets veteran backup point guard tradition of knocking down one 3-pointer per game, and all of a sudden the Nuggets were up 106-105.

That lead wasn't meant to be, like a celebrity relationship between two Disney Channel stars. Boogie stripped D.J. Augustin, and got to the free throw line after a hard foul by the Nuggets guard prevented a basket. The Nuggets went down by two after Boogie walked his way into a Moses Malone basket (shoot, miss, offensive rebound, bucket), and that clinched the game.

There was some discussion about the referees decision to not call a foul on Cousins on the Nuggets final play, but it wasn't a foul. Cousins stripped Darrell Arthur clean, and the Kings secured the ball while the Nuggets were complaining about the refs not bailing them out. Maybe try setting up a play to get a shot attempt off without relying on the referees to gift a chance to win the game – just a thought.

The Nuggets were terrible for three quarters, and fought like crazy to make it a competitive game. It's a little disconcerting to see Nurkic apparently in Malone's doghouse, but there could be a health concern that we aren't aware of. I'll leave speculating to others – in the meantime, all I know is that Nurkic did not play during the game tonight.

On to the Clippers – tomorrow.


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