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Kings 94, Nuggets 101: Close But No Cigar

The best effort of the season and a monster game from Richaun Holmes wasn’t enough to get the Kings their first win.

Kimani Okearah

In the end, a loss is a loss, but after watching the Kings fumble around for the first three games of the year, tonight’s effort against the Denver Nuggets was far more encouraging. Richaun Holmes had a near career night in his fourth game with the Kings, scoring 24 points on 10-14 shooting to go with 13 rebounds and 2 blocks in 30 minutes, all while playing some pretty good defense on Nuggets star Nikola Jokic. Jokic finished with just 9 points on 4-15 shooting from the field.

This game looked like it was going to head towards disaster early, with the Kings finding themselves in a 12-3 hole within the first few minutes. Dewayne Dedmon picked up his 2nd foul as Jokic bullied him around the block but it proved to be a godsend for Sacramento as Holmes came in and immediately injected some much needed energy on both ends of the floor.

The Kings also finally remembered how to pass the ball, finishing with 25 assists to just 12 turnovers. De’Aaron Fox led the way for the Kings there with 9 assists and Bogdan Bogdanovic added 6 off the bench.

Neither team shot the ball particularly well. Sacramento held the Nuggets to just 36.7% from the floor, but only managed to shoot 39.6% themselves. Buddy Hield didn’t score a basket until the fourth quarter and in the end finished with a very uncharacteristic 5 points on 2-13 shooting from the field. Bogdan Bogdanovic also struggled, going just 2-12.

The Nuggets were able to overcome their poor shooting thanks to second chance points, outrebounding the Kings 54 to 48 and outscoring them 20-10 in second chance points. Mason Plumlee especially was annoying on the offensive glass, snagging 5 of them. The Kings also shot themselves in the foot with yet another horrendous 3rd quarter, with Denver outscoring the Kings 30 to 17 in the period.

It’s unfortunate to bring the officiating into the conversation but it ended up making a big difference down the stretch. With 6:04 left in the game, Fox drove to the rim and was wrapped up by Gary Harris in an attempt to stop him from scoring. Instead of calling the foul and sending Fox to the line, the officials called it out bounds as the ball was knocked from Fox’s hands and went off his knee. Denver took it to the other end and hit a three pointer and then stole the inbounds off a bad pass by Buddy to essentially make that missed call a 7 point swing.

Later in the game with the Kings down 3 with 25 seconds left, Nikola Jokic threw the ball in the backcourt to Harris who was aggressively shadowed by Hield. It appeared that Harris traveled but instead a whistle was blown and free throws were awarded as if the official anticipated the Kings fouling on the inbounds (even though it wouldn’t have made sense to do so in that situation). The Kings had already (successfully) used their challenge earlier in the game and as such were unable to get the call looked at. The Nuggets converted their free throws and the Kings couldn’t convert on the other end, essentially ending the game.

It’s frustrating to see the Kings fall to 0-4 on the year but at least this game showed some positive growth. The team moved the ball better, got up and down the floor better, and defended well for the most part. This type of effort is what was missing the last three games and hopefully it’s here to stay.

The Kings will continue this homestand on Wednesday as the Charlotte Hornets come to town.

Random Observations

  • Trevor Ariza played a bit more conservatively today, only taking his open threes and he converted them to finish with 9 points on 3-5 shooting (3-4 from distance). Ariza is much better when he isn’t forcing the issue on offense.
  • Dewayne Dedmon has been a big disappointment so far. The Kings biggest offseason acquisition has failed to be a positive contributor so far and finished with just 4 points, 3 rebounds, a steal and a block in 17 minutes while being a -18 on the floor. Given how well Holmes played with the starters tonight I would immediately replace Dedmon in the lineup with Holmes, at least while Bagley is out. That allows the Kings to keep the dynamic of having one stretch big (Bjelica) and one athletic roll big (Holmes) that they wanted to have with Bagley and Dedmon in the first place.
  • Bogi needs to stop with the iso/hero ball. He keeps going back to that well and it isn’t going to work against athletic defenders like Harris, Torrey Craig or Will Barton.

Game Highlights