Denver Nuggets 115, Sacramento Kings 125: Three takeaways
The Nuggets (1-3) couldn’t build on their win against Houston Monday as they lost to the Kings (3-1) 125-115 in Sacramento just over 24 hours later.
With Jamal Murray being sidelined with a right elbow contusion and fatigue playing a factor, Denver wasn’t able to sustain a consistent effort for 48 minutes Tuesday.
Nikola Jokić secured his 44th career triple-double with 26 points, 12 assists, and 11 boards. It also ensured the Serbian big man has passed Fat Lever to become the Nuggets record-holder in triple-doubles. De’Aaron Fox helped the Kings get their second-straight win against the Nuggets as he dropped 24 points, 10 assists and two steals.
"Obviously there were a lot of negatives. This is our second time losing to this team and this is a bad loss for us," Michael Porter Jr. said. "We're 1-3 now. There's not many, but you try to take the positives and you just got to move on."
The Nuggets have played their final game of 2020 and will return to action on New Year’s Day against the Phoenix Suns at Ball Arena (7 p.m. MT, ALTITUDE).
Here are the takeaways:
Inconsistency remains an issue
This is a group that remains a work-in-progress – especially on the defensive end.
After taking a 34-32 entering the first quarter, Denver would surrender 42 points in the second quarter. Marvin Bagley III was the spark for the Kings as he powered Sacramento with 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting. The Nuggets would enter the break allowing 74 points to the home team.
"When we have quarters like that, it kind of haunts us in the end," Monte Morris explained. "We just have to be locked in for all 48 minutes."
While Denver would improve in the third quarter, holding Sacramento to 22 points on 9 of 24 shooting, some bad habits would reemerge in the final 12 minutes. The Nuggets were outscored 29-15 by the Kings, with Tyrese Haliburton giving his team a lift with eight points and two timely threes.
Haliburton’s late performance pointing to another deciding factor of the game: The play of the reserves. Sacramento’s reserves dominated Denver’s second-unit 38-19. With Monte Morris getting the start in place of Murray, the Nuggets reserves appeared out of synch.
To compound the Nuggets’ issues on the night, the team as a whole had 19 turnovers and allowed Sacramento to score 37 points on those giveaways.
"I would say good teams don't beat themselves, but that would be giving us a compliment I don't think we deserve right now," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. "We're not a very good team at the moment."
Michael Porter Jr. goes microwave
Through the first three quarters, Michael Porter Jr. had missed just three of his 14 field goals. That’s right just three. He was a sizzling 4 of 5 from downtown through that stretch. Although he wasn’t able to carry that hot hand into the final quarter, making one more bucket, it speaks to just how dangerous he is when he gets going.
With Murray sidelined, Porter Jr. picked up the slack and posted one of the most dominant performances in his young career.
Porter Jr. would finish the night with 30 points, just seven off his career-high, and added 10 boards. When the Nuggets fell behind by 12 heading into the box, it was his 15 points in the third quarter that gave the team a much-needed lifeline. While defense remains an area of improvement for the second-year player, he displayed why a lot of national outlets believe he will be in the running for Most Improved Player with a dazzling show on offense.
Nikola Jokić breaks Fat Lever’s record
When Jokić started racking up triple-doubles regularly, there was always the potential for the center to eventually set the Nuggets record on the stat. That fact that came this quickly, however, is impressive despite the team’s result Tuesday.
Jokić finished the game shooting 9 of 14 and also had a hand in the Nuggets rally in the third quarter, pouring in 16 points during that stretch. Although he won’t be happy with the 10 turnovers he surrendered on the night, he continues to be one of the most dominant players in the early part of the NBA season.