Denver Nuggets 121, Sacramento Kings 111: Three Takeaways

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyroNBA

It wasn’t a complete performance for all 48 minutes, but the Denver Nuggets will take any convincing wins they can get this time of year. A matchup against the Sacramento Kings proved to be exactly what the Nuggets needed to juice their offense in a 121-111 victory at Ball Arena Friday night. Nikola Jokić once again paced Denver’s attack with 33 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists.

A back-and-forth start saw the Nuggets hold a slim 13-11 lead after the first five minutes. However, the remainder of the quarter was not as even, with Denver building a 12-point lead as a result of effective ball movement and stingy defense. The Nuggets finished the first quarter with 10 assists, while Sacramento only shot 40.9 percent from the field in the first 12 minutes. The Mile High squad would take a 35-23 lead into the second frame.

A quick 7-0 run to open the second quarter got Sacramento back in the game and within five as Denver’s second unit was searching for a rhythm. However, once the Nuggets’ bench group (led by Bones Hyland) did find that rhythm, the game turned around once again as Denver used hot 3-point shooting to extend the lead up to 18 at 50-32. As the starters checked back in, the Nuggets continued to build on that momentum and eventually took a 66-54 advantage into the halftime break. Denver hit nine threes and dished out 18 assists in the first 24 minutes of action.

Once again, the Kings got back into the game at the beginning of a quarter with a 12-4 run that cut Denver’s lead down to 70-66. However, unlike the second quarter, the Nuggets didn’t quickly respond and build the lead back up to double digits. Although it took a little longer this time around, Jokić helped fuel a 15-6 run during the middle portion of the quarter to push Denver’s lead to 85-72. The reigning MVP dropped 12 points in the third quarter alone as the Nuggets took a 96-85 lead into the fourth quarter.

To begin the final frame, Denver turned the tables on Sacramento and used a 12-4 run to blow the game open and push the lead to 21 at 108-87. The Nuggets’ second unit once again fueled this success, as Jeff Green provided a few highlight-worthy dunks while Hyland continued to put points on the board. Sacramento did cut the lead down to 15 with just over three minutes remaining but never got truly close to pulling off the comeback down the stretch.

Here are three takeaways from Friday’s win.

The MVP was on cruise control

Hopefully Nuggets Nation isn’t tired of reading the same story night in and night out.

Friday’s contest against the Kings was once again headlined by Jokić’s dominant performance, this time on both ends of the floor. After scoring 16 points (to go along with five assists) in the first half, the reigning MVP used a 12-point third quarter to fuel his impressive second half production.

In the end, Jokić finished with 33 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists on 13-of-20 shooting from the field, highlighting the elite efficiency with which the Serbian big man attacked Friday night. The Serbian big man also added two steals and two blocks on the other end of the floor.

Green and Hyland impressed off the bench

In his return from a brief absence due to health and safety protocols, Jeff Green didn’t miss a beat. The 35-year-old forward got up for some dunks and scored from all areas of the floor on his way to an 18-point performance (7-of-9 shooting from the field) in 16 minutes of action.

Meanwhile, Hyland injected the second unit with some dynamic scoring and ball-handling, ultimately finishing Friday’s win with 13 points, five rebounds, and three assists.

As a group, Denver’s second unit finished with 42 points on the night, which was certainly enough when the starters had it going themselves.

Effective ball movement fueled a balanced scoring attack

Not only was it a balanced scoring attack on an individual level (seven players finished in double-figures for Denver), but the Nuggets got their points in a variety of ways against the Kings’ struggling defense.

The Mile High squad finished with 70 points in the paint, 12 made 3-pointers, and 15 free-throws in the dominant offensive performance. Of course, it’s easier to achieve that when the ball is moving, which was certainly the case Friday night as the Nuggets dropped 32 dimes in the victory.

Denver is back in action Sunday against the Oklahoma City Thunder (5 p.m. MT).

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