Nuggets beat Kings for fourth straight win: 'It's crunch time. We want to be the number one seed'

Matt Brooks
Writer & Digital Content Specialist

Don't look now, but the Denver Nuggets are turning it on at the right time.

With 27 games to go, the Nuggets needed a spark. They entered the All-Star break on a three-game skid. The practices just after the All-Star game showed signs of promise. The team seemed motivated. Driven. They echoed the importance of grabbing the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. Still, at the end of the day, words are just words. The Nuggets needed results.

Boy, they've gotten them.

Denver wiped out the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday, 117-96. They went on a ridiculous 68-21 run between the second and third quarters to turn a 15-point deficit into a 31-point blowout. It was one of the team's most ridiculous comebacks of the season. Most importantly, they took down the team that had beaten them three separate times this season.

Denver has now won all four of its games after the All-Star break... and by a considerable margin of 15 points or more. This is just the fourth time in franchise history that they've pulled off such a feat. They look like the dominant team that went 16-4 in the 2023 NBA playoffs en route to the championship.

"I think we just know what time it is now. It's time to start ramping up," said Aaron Gordon after the win. "I know we didn't want to be playing our best basketball early this season, and now we're just starting to climb that mountain again."

After the win, the Nuggets are just two games back from the No. 1-seeded Minnesota Timberwolves in the West. They're a game-and-a-half behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for the second spot.

"For us, it's crunch time. We want to be the number one seed, and we don't want any of these games to just slip by us," said Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. "We came in at the All-Star break and everybody had the same mentality, the same goal in mind: get back to that number one spot and then try to go back-to-back."

Caldwell-Pope would later go on to say he felt that Denver's energy and effort in this post-All-Star stretch was reminiscent of the team's torrid championship run. It's tough to disagree. Denver's peaking at the right time and is playing its best basketball of the season on the doorsteps of the playoffs.

Nikola Jokić finished with his fourth-straight triple-double with 14 points, 11 assists, and 14 rebounds. This is the fourth time in his storied career that he's recorded four straight triple-doubles.

Gordon was heroic for the Nuggets and kickstarted their tremendous run with an 11-point second quarter. He would finish with 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists. Denver was also a plus-40 in his minutes, a career-high for Gordon.

Jamal Murray led all scorers with 32 points on 13-of-15 shooting. This was the sixth time this season he's scored 30 or more points, and the Nuggets have won all six games. His 86.7 percent shooting represented a season-high.

Denver was efficient across the board and made 53.5 percent of their shots, 42.9 percent of their three-pointers, and 90.9 percent of their free throws. This was the first time all season that Denver has achieved a 50/40/90 line in a game as a team. In fact, they've only pulled this off 32 times in franchise history. They also made 60.8 percent of their two-pointers.

Denver also won the fastbreak battle, 26-14. This was the fourth straight game they've outscored their opponent on the fastbreak. As a reminder, the Nuggets entered the All-Star break with the league's worst transition offense. Things are certainly looking up. Again, Denver's turning it on at the right time. In all facets of the game.

The Nuggets began the game a little sluggish. The Kings went on a 20-8 run that started in the first quarter and stretched into the second quarter. However, Gordon played hero for the Nuggets and powered his way into 11 second-quarter points off a screen-and-roll and two hard seals in transition. Murray hit two enormous momentum three-pointers to cap off a ridiculous 30-8 Denver run and send the Nuggets into halftime with a 65-55 lead.

Denver went on another 24-8 run in the third quarter thanks to a swarming defense that held Sacramento to just 17 points. This helped the Nuggets build a 31-point lead that was insurmountable for the Kings.