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GAME 26 vs Denver, Preview & Game Thread

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DENVER NUGGETS    (15-10)   107.6 ORtg (#13), 102.8 DRtg (# 2), 99.3 Pace (# 1)
SACRAMENTO KINGS  (11-14)   106.6 ORtg (#17), 109.5 DRtg (#23), 91.7 Pace (#11)

BALLHYPE


On Denver
This is a better team than the record indicates; inconsistency seems to have plagued the Nuggets, leading to more losses than deserved (including Friday's defeat in Portland, where Denver entered the fourth up 7 but fell behind by seven halfway through the quarter). It's a strong defense which can occasionally give up huge runs; it's an explosive offense which can occasionally put together huge runs. The Kings didn't see this when they visited Denver two weeks ago; they did see that fantastic defense though, managing only 97 points in 107 possessions (a 90.7 ORtg).

Ron Artest always seems to keep Carmelo Anthony from scoring efficiently, though it's near impossible to stop Melo from scoring. Anthony shot 41% against the Kings last year (versus 48% overall), and it took Melo 16 shots and 4 FTAs to score 14 points earlier this month. (At the same time, of course, it took Artest 18 shots to score 10 points. Artest played to his standard capabilities last season against Denver.)

John Salmons still harbors Allen Iverson rage issues, apparently, because he dropped 25 points two weeks ago to go with his big triple-double last year in the blizzard. If Iverson is guarding Salmons, Johnny again has a huge advantage. A.I. is still quick and jabs/slaps at the ball a ton, but Salmons is too strong and has too many moves at the rim. And they can't afford to pay Johnny much more attention, else Beno Udrih beat Anthony Carter and Chucky Atkins like bass drums on the Fourth of July or Ron-Ron use his new-found interior passing regime to shrug off any single body draped over him. Against small backcourts (of which Denver is one of few), Salmons and Artest make a potent combo.

Kenyon Martin's working on some sort of resurgence (is there a law that Kevin and Kenyon can't play at the same time?), and he's as big an offensive threat as Marcus Camby when he's on. The Kings need to keep it close to 75% on the defensive glass, because Sacramento cannot stop Martin nor Camby from repeated putbacks if they're eligible for clear offensive boards.

Game's at 6 p.m. local time, and it's the last one til the Celtics visit Wednesday. Enjoy, and go Kings.