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Kings withstand Jokic’s big game, beat Nuggets 119-114

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The Joker had 50 points but Sacramento played one of its most complete games of the season in the win.

Denver Nuggets v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The Sacramento Kings are proving that they might not be as far away from playoff contention as some might think.

Harrison Barnes had 28 points, while super rookie Tyrese Haliburton had 23, including 12 in the fourth quarter, helping the Kings defeat the Denver Nuggets 119-114.

Sacramento has been on a roll lately, winning six of its last seven to get back to .500 at 11-11. Barnes has been a big reason why the team has turned things around.

The veteran is averaging 24 points per game in the Kings’ last six wins. In comparison, Barnes is averaging just 13.6 points in losses this season.

Haliburton continues to impress. The rookie hit several big shots over the final 12 minutes, including this one from deep that put Sacramento up by nine with just over four minutes to go.

The Nuggets stayed in the game thanks to a heroic performance by All-Star big man Nikola Jokic, who finished with a ridiculous 50 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds.

De’Aaron Fox had another strong outing with 24 points and five assists.

It was a tight game until late in the third quarter. The Kings were up 81-79 when they went on a run that carried over into the fourth.

Sacramento went on a 13-4 run over a 3:10 span that saw the Kings extend the lead to 11. The Nuggets cut the deficit to six with a little more than three minutes to go, but Fox hit a clutch 3-pointer that extended the lead back to nine, and Denver was never able to get back on even terms.

The two teams were neck-and-neck throughout the first half. Sacramento’s defense did a great job of slowing the high-powered Denver offense over the opening 24 minutes. The Kings held the Nuggets to 43.8 percent shooting and held a slim 53-52 lead at the break.

This was one of the best 48-minute performances of the season for Sacramento. The team has now beaten championship contenders in back-to-back games, and the defense has been outstanding over the past seven games.

The Kings are allowing eight fewer points per game during their 6-1 stretch than they were during the previous 15 games. Their rotations have been quicker, which is resulting in better close-outs on opposing shooters. The rim-protection was great once again. Hassan Whiteside had four of the team’s seven blocks against Denver.

Sacramento is only a game out of the No. 8 seed and looks like it will stay in the playoff race if the past two weeks are any indication of how the rest of the season will go.

Have your expectations for the team changed after its 6-1 run?