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Nuggets 96, Kings 78: Frozen offense dooms Sacramento.

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Well, that sucked.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Kings just gave us a 48 minute reminder that they’re not very good yet.

Arctic-cold offense, 36% shooting, a 58-to-39 rebounding disadvantage, and limited energy led to an early and permanent deficit in the 96-78 loss in Denver on Saturday night. The Kings looked every bit an exhausted, overwhelmed young team on the end of a 3 games/4 nights opening schedule.

Aside from some promising flashes from De’Aaron Fox (18 points, 4 boards, and 8/13 shooting) and Skal Labissiere (13 points, 4 boards, and 6/12), the Kings (1-2) were a cold mess and showed little of the enthusiastic-if-erratic competence from the previous two games. Fox, particularly, flashed in the second half; he had an array of his amazing driving-layups and even added in a elbow 3, but he could never get the rest of the Kings offense defrosted.

The Kings played an absolutely abysmal first half, with only 34 points, a 32.5% shooting clip, a 32-to-18 deficit on the glass, and a 6/7 assist/turnover ratio. After the startling lineup of George Hill, Buddy Hield, Justin Jackson, Zach Randolph, and Willie Cauley-Stein put the Kings in a hole early, Joerger replaced all the veterans with youngsters... and that didn’t work, either. Aside from Skal, who had 7 points on 3/7 shooting with 3 boards (and the only positive +/- of the Kings half with 10), none of the youngsters played particularly inspired basketball to end the half.

The Kings will head to Phoenix for a matchup against the Suns on Monday, followed by Boogie’s return to Sacramento on Thursday.

Game notes:

  • Zack Randolph (11 points, 5 rebounds) was a massive culprit of the frozen offense. Much to the Nuggets delight, Joerger again let him clear out whole sides of the court for post-ups that rarely produced anything but double-teams. In two games, he’s 10-28 from the filed and taken the most shots of any King.
  • The starting guard duo of Buddy Hield (3 points, 1-10 FG) and George Hill (4 points, 1-5 FG) had more turnovers than made-shots.
  • Willie Cauley-Stein played terrific defense on Nuggets’ star Nikola Jokic, but had no success on the other end. He finished with 9 boards, but probably could have had 15 or more if his hands hadn’t frozen stiff in the high altitude. He was responsible for an insane number of spiked-straight-to-his-opponent rebounds.
  • Malachi Richardson and Frank Mason both got their first minutes of the season. Mason played alongside Fox in the first half, a tactic that resulted in zero success for either player. Garbage time minutes and some success on the drive upped Frank to 7 points, albeit on 2-9 shooting. Richardson, meanwhile, had 8 points on 2-5 shooting. Based on the three games of work so far, it seems clear both Mason and Richardson are outside Joerger’s rotation.
  • I could have played Zelda all evening and let Will take this one. I live with regrets.