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Kings 114, Nuggets 110: Kings avoid Mile-high Meltdown

After watching their 17 point lead evaporate into thin, high-altitude air, the Kings manage to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

That was almost ugly. The Sacramento Kings almost looked like they were going to coast to a win against the Denver Nuggets and get some extra rest in anticipation of a date with the San Antonio Spurs tomorrow, but no dice. The Kings nearly collapsed in epic fashion in the fourth quarter, allowing the Nuggets to come screaming back and even take a late fourth quarter lead. Thankfully, there were a few game-saving defensive plays that helped the Kings hold on to that precious lead to the end of the buzzer.

DeMarcus Cousins continued is utter ownership of the Nuggets this year, this time roaring his way to a 39 point 9 rebound night on a tidy .667 TS%. He also helped seal the game late, making a clean steal when switched out on DJ Augustin and stripping Darrell Arthur on the Nuggets' last possession of the game. It was a nice effort for the Kings' out-of-shape and coach-eating big fella.

I think what was most memorable about this game were some of the spectacular defensive plays the Kings' bigs were making. Rudy Gay and Quincy Acy had three blocks each, the latter's being some pretty sweet highlihgts. Willie Cauley-Stein was an active livewire, getting into the passing lanes and coming out of nowhere to swat some shots himself. It was a nice reminder that the Kings have some serious defensive talent in the middle that they should be building a defense around.

At this point, you know the drill about the defensive scheme, so I won't bore you too long with it. Its the usual routine; blah blah blah zone, blah blah soft, blah blah has more holes than Spongebob. The Kings were practically begging the Nuggets to shoot jumpers; the Nuggets made the Kings pay from three, hitting 37% of their 27 shots (for a tidy 1.14 points per attempt) but shot a ghastly percentage from midrange, despite all the clean looks the Kings' scheme will give you from there.

The Kings' strategy worked for the most part until the final frame. The Nuggets made their run in the fourth quarter when DJ Augustin (10 of his 14 points) and Will Barton (14 of his 18 points) started getting their games going. Augustin, as a small guard who can score and make smart passes if given space, in particular has the kind of game that destroys the Kings' scheme. Barton finally started hitting all of the perimeter looks the Kings were daring him to shoot. The result was a 33-23 final quarter that nearly cost the Kings the game.

But, thankfully the Kings executed down the stretch. Cauley-Stein hit a swooping lefty hook to give the Kings the lead back for good. Cousins stripped Augustin and hit the two ensuing free throws. Then Cousins rebounded his own miss off the backboard and give the Kings a four point cushion.

The Kings have now are on a three game mini winning streak, but are now facing down a fearsome slate of opponents that could knock them out of the playoff race for good. It would take a miracle to sneak back into it, but hey, stranger things have happened.

Random Observations

  • There was a very loud and proud contingent of Kings fans in Denver today. We even got clear SAC-RA-MEN-TO chants in the fourth! Job well done, gentleman
  • The refs were atrocious in this one, and it didn't really help or hurt either side. Just made the game frustrating for everyone. Justice is balance!
  • Omri Casspi had a great game off the bench with 14 points, and looks like he's got his three point shot back on track after a mini slump before the All-Star break. Just wish someone could figure out how he's such a bad free throw shooter.
  • This was a very interesting game rotation-wise. James Anderson was a DNP-CD which was a beautiful sight for sore eyes. Kosta Koufos only got 11 minutes in today's game, which is something to monitor. Koufos is way too good to be getting 11 minutes a game but where are his minutes going to come from with Cauley-Stein playing so well?
  • Cousins led the team with 24 shot attempts. Second on the team was.... Marco Belinelli, who shot 4/12 from the field

Tweet of the Night

For the opponent's perspective, visit Denver Stiffs.