Nuggets erase 20-point deficit in win over shorthanded Kings

Dec 27, 2022, 10:01 PM | Updated: 10:18 pm
TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 14: De'Aaron Fox #5 of the Sacramento Kings looks on against the Toronto Rap...
(Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)

Although the Sacramento Kings came out firing early against the Western Conference’s number-one-seeded Denver Nuggets, they needed more gas in the tank to pull out a win on Tuesday night.

In a game where the Kings were without their star center Domantas Sabonis (thumb), Denver took advantage of Sacramento’s small-ball lineup late in the fourth quarter as they pulled out a 113-106 win in front of the largest crowd in Golden 1 Center’s six-year history (17,937).

These two teams will run things back in less than 24 hours to complete the back-to-back, but the Kings will need to go back to the drawing board or hope that Sabonis can suit up for Wednesday’s re-match.

With the loss, Sacramento (17-15) has lost five of their past eight games and posted a disappointing 1-3 record during this six-game home stand.

Sacramento led 32-20 after the first quarter and stretched its lead to 20 points during the second quarter, but Denver whittled the deficit down for the remainder of the game as the Kings struggled to string together successful offensive possessions for most of the second half.

“We weren’t able to make tough shots when they mattered most, and they did,” Kings guard Kevin Huerter said of the late-game execution.

With two-time MVP Nikola Jokic waking up during the third quarter and Sacramento having no true answer for the All-Star big man, acting head coach Jordi Fernández opted to run with a small-ball lineup for most of the final stretch of play. That lineup included De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Kevin Huerter, Harrison Barnes, and Trey Lyles.

While the lineup did a solid job of applying pressure to Jokic by way of blitzes and double-teams, those double-teams would leave shooters camped out on the perimeter, and Sacramento had trouble getting out to contest before shots went flying. Players like Michael Porter Jr. (30 points), Jamal Murray (25 points), and Vlatko Cancar (two made three-pointers during the fourth quarter) capitalized on Sacramento’s weakened defense to pull out the victory.

Sabonis’ absence was a glaring issue on Tuesday, as the Kings needed their role players to step up in light of the big man’s injury–but those contributions would fade as the game went on.

After scoring 13 points and grabbing seven rebounds during the first half, Harrison Barnes didn’t score during the second half while adding just one board to his stat line during the loss. De’Aaron Fox struggled to get his offense going early (seven first-half points), but he found his rhythm during the second half (19 points). Malik Monk struggled offensively, scoring eight points on three-of-10 shooting and 0-of-five from deep.

Sacramento needed more from the supporting cast if they were going to be able to beat a talented Nuggets team.

Fox’s 26 points and a 21-point effort from Kevin Huerter accounted for nearly half of the Kings’ 106 points, as three-point shooting bit the Kings once again during Tuesday’s loss. Sacramento finished the night 10-of-35 (28%) from beyond the arc as they fell to 1-10 this season when shooting 32 percent or worse from three-point range.

Adding in the shooting woes with Jokic’s big second half performance (18 points, four rebounds, and five assists during the final two quarters), the Kings didn’t have enough of that early-game magic to pull this one out.

Learning to play without Sabonis will not be an easy task for Sacramento. The center has been the heartbeat of this team’s early-season success and a force on the glass. It’s possible that the Kings have Sabonis back on the floor as soon as Wednesday, but the players in the locker room can’t count on that happening.

If this group is going to pull themselves out of this hole that is currently being dug, they will have to learn how to play winning basketball without Domantas Sabonis.

We’re about to learn a lot about the Sacramento Kings in the coming days and weeks.

Injury Report

  • Domantas Sabonis (avulsion fracture of the ulnar collateral ligament of the right thumb) was not active for Tuesday night’s game. It’s unknown when the big man will suit up next for the Kings, but reports have indicated that he will eventually attempt to play through the injury.
  • Mike Brown (Health & Safety protocols) was placed into the NBA’s protocols on Tuesday and will remain away from the team until he is cleared to return.

Sacramento Kings Postgame Show

Check out our Sactown Sports Kings Recap Show on the Sactown Sports 1140 YouTube channel!

Sactown Sports Kings Recap Shows will be happening all season long, immediately following each Kings game!

Next Game

It isn’t Deja Vu–these two teams will return for a rematch at Golden 1 Center in less than 24 hours.

Sacramento will complete the back-to-back set against the Nuggets on Wednesday night before finishing their homestand against Utah on Friday.

Get your Kings vs. Nuggets coverage on Sactown Sports 1140 starting at 5:30 pm PST on Game Night before action tips off at 7:00 pm PST from downtown Sacramento.

Upcoming Sacramento Kings Schedule

Wednesday, December 28th – Sacramento Kings vs. Denver Nuggets – 7:00 PM PST

Friday, December 30th – Sacramento Kings vs. Utah Jazz – 7:00 PM PST

2023| Happy New Year! | 2023

Sunday, January 1st – Sacramento Kings @ Memphis Grizzlies – 5:00 PM PST

Tuesday, January 3rd – Sacramento Kings @ Utah Jazz – 6:00 PM PST

Wednesday, January 4th – Sacramento Kings vs. Atlanta Hawks – 7:00 PM PST


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