The Nuggets come into Sacramento Saturday looking for revenge.
The Kings stole a victory in Denver on opening night — quite literally, as Nikola Jokic’s pocket was picked on the final possession of the game. The Kings picked up another win in Denver six days later, though this time against a Nuggets team without Jamal Murray, creating some early-season doubts about the 2020 Western Conference finalists.
Denver has mostly quieted those concerns. Jokic has put together an MVP-worthy campaign and the Nuggets are back in fourth place in the West standings. But they still have a bad taste in their mouth heading into this matchup, especially after blowing a double-digit lead to lose the Lakers Thursday.
Where: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, California
When: Saturday, Feb. 6 at 2 p.m. PT
How to watch/listen: NBC Sports California, KHTK Sports 1140 AM
Opposing perspective: Denver Stiffs
Projected Starting Lineups:
Kings (10-11): De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, Marvin Bagley III, Richaun Holmes
Nuggets (12-9): Jamal Murray, Will Barton, JaMychal Green, Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic
Kings: DaQuan Jeffries (left ankle) — OUT
Nuggets: Facundo Campazzo (right knee), Jamal Murray (left knee) — QUESTIONABLE; PJ Dozier (right hamstring), Gary Harris (left adductor), Greg Whittington (left knee) — OUT
Meanwhile, the Kings are playing their best basketball of the season. De’Aaron Fox has been a fourth-quarter dynamo, nearly single-handedly leading his team past the Pelicans and the Celtics in the last two games after coming up one point short in Miami. If Fox could get to the rim — where he’s converting 71 percent of his shots — a little more frequently instead of settling in the midrange, he would be even more devastating on the offensive end.
Sacramento is really turning things around on defense. They have the 10th-best defensive rating in the league over the last two weeks, per Cleaning the Glass, despite still having the NBA’s worst defense overall. That improvement hasn’t come at the expense of the offense, as the Kings still are scoring at a top-10 rate.
So long as the Kings are within reach down the stretch, their closing lineup has been gangbusters. Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, and Richaun Holmes are the second-best five-man unit in the league that has played at least 90 minutes (h/t Zach Lowe’s 10 Things). The downside is that Marvin Bagley hasn’t gotten to close many games, but he has been effective in his earlier playing time, and it’s hard to justify his fourth-quarter minutes when Holmes and Barnes have been so good.
What are you looking forward to seeing from the Kings tomorrow?