The Denver Nuggets once again find themselves in a familiar position with a .500 record on the season.
The shorthanded Mile High squad couldn’t complete a late comeback attempt Wednesday night against the Utah Jazz, falling 115-109 despite a 26-point, 21-rebound, 11-assist effort from reigning MVP Nikola Jokić. Denver failed to get key stops on the defensive end down the stretch which led to a second consecutive loss.
Denver (18-18) now wraps up a quick two-game homestand by welcoming the Sacramento Kings to Ball Arena Friday night.
Sacramento (16-24) has certainly dealt with its fair share of challenges this season, highlighted by the in-season coaching change from Luke Walton to Alvin Gentry. Defensive issues continue to plague the Kings, as they rank 25th in the league on that end of the floor, per Cleaning the Glass.
Sacramento swept the season series 3-0 between the two teams last season.
JAMAL MURRAY – LEFT KNEE INJURY RECOVERY. OUT.
MICHAEL PORTER JR. – LUMBAR SPINE SURGERY. OUT.
VLATKO CANCAR – RIGHT FOOT FRACTURE. OUT.
MARKUS HOWARD – LEFT KNEE SPRAIN. OUT.
P.J. DOZIER – LEFT ACL SURGERY. OUT.
ZEKE NNAJI – HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS. QUESTIONABLE.
JEFF GREEN – HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS. QUESTIONABLE.
AARON GORDON – NON-COVID ILLNESS. PROBABLE.
BONES HYLAND – NON-COVID ILLNESS. PROBABLE.
TUNE-IN: 7 p.m. MT, Altitude TV and 92.5FM
The battle on the offensive glass
Sacramento and Denver are on opposite ends of battle on the boards. The Nuggets have been a dominant defensive rebounding team (ranking second in opponent offensive rebound percentage) but have struggled to replicate their previous success on the offensive glass (26th in offensive rebound percentage).
Meanwhile, the Kings rank 11th in their own offensive rebound percentage but have been extremely vulnerable on the other end of the floor, ranking 28th in opponent offensive rebound percentage. If Denver is able to limit Sacramento’s second-chance opportunities Friday night, the Kings will likely present additional scoring opportunities for the Nuggets to take advantage of on the offensive end of the floor.
Attack the basket
Sacramento’s defense has prioritized limiting attempts from deep this season (opponents have only taken 32.9 percent of their shot attempts from beyond the arc, the second-lowest frequency in the league), but that has exposed the Kings inside the arc, especially around the rim.
Teams have taken 33.9 percent of their shot attempts from within four feet of the rim this season, a frequency that ranks in the top 10 of the league. Those shots have gone in at a 65.3 percent clip, a number slightly above the league average.
Denver’s offense hasn’t prioritized shots at the rim this season (they make up 31.5 percent of the team’s total shot attempts, a rate slightly below league average), but when the Nuggets get to the cup, they usually convert, having shot 68.1 percent on shots within four feet of the basket, the fourth-highest percentage in the league.
Which team can succeed in transition?
Both teams have looked to push the pace in advantage situations at similar frequencies this season, with 16.2 percent of Sacramento’s possessions beginning with a transition play, compared to 15.7 percent for Denver.
The Kings have been more efficient in those situations, ranking sixth in points added per 100 possessions through transition plays (the Nuggets rank 23rd in that category).
However, it’s a different story on the other end of the floor, where Sacramento has been extremely vulnerable defending in transition. While Denver ranks above the league average in opponent frequency and efficiency in transition, the Kings rank 27th in both areas as opponents have thrived when pushing the pace against Sacramento.