The Kings started the contest with an strong offensive effort, but could not to string together a cohesive defense that could outlast the frame. Failure to protect the paint led to the Sacramento’s demise early as they went on a 12-0 run to end the first quarter.
Still short-handed, the Kings were without a dominant defender who could match up with Jokic. The Joker’s dominance continued tonight against a malnourished Sacramento center spot, pouring in 33 points on the defensive assignments of Damian Jones and Tristan Thompson.
Alex Len had the most success amongst the Kings’ bigs against the Mile High’s superstar, scoring a season-high 18 points through three quarters of action.
Stroking the three-ball was essential when the Kings made a decent run, receiving key contributions beyond the arc from Buddy Hield and Moe Harkless in the second quarter. Despite their attempt at an offensive answer, there was no resolve on the defensive end, leading to the second 12-0 Nuggets’ run of the ball game.
Sacramento had the opportunity to out-pace Denver’s typically slower state of play (ranked 25th overall in the league), but instead allowed for the Nuggets’ preferred version of slo-mo basketball to control the entirety of the contest. The bounce and speed of the young Kings proved to be a negative contrast rather than a strong advantage - turning the ball over on careless possessions and failing to find success in transition.
Heading into the locker room cutting their 20-point deficit in half, the Kings would have an opportunity to answer in the second half.
Sacramento opened the third frame with a quick start and defensive adjustment with aid from Tyrese Haliburton on both ends of the floor. The Kings managed to cut the lead down to just four points when the Nuggets were forced to take a timeout in the opening minutes of the third. A once 37-57 score became 66-70 thanks to a 27-11 run by Sacramento.
The comeback fell short when the reigning MVP poured in nine of the Nuggets’ eleven third quarter points, extending Denver’s lead back to fifteen.
The bleeding never ceased in the fourth frame, as the Kings were torched by Jeff Green.
Sacramento will travel to the City of Roses as they look find victory once more against an under-performing Portland Trail Blazers squad.