Game Preview: What to Watch for in the Nuggets Game in Sacramento

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Nuggets are in Sacramento for a Saturday night game against the Kings in what is the second game of a back-to-back set. This is the third meeting between the two teams this season, and the Nuggets have won the first two – one each in Denver and at Sacramento.

The Nuggets come into the game a season-high four games over .500 with a 21-17 record, and looking to go five games over .500 for the first time since being 14-9 to start the 2013-14 season.

It is the start of two rare away games this month. The Nuggets are playing just five road games in January as the schedule turns from a road-heavy December to a much more home friendly slate of games this month.

And, with two win in their last three road games, they’ll be looking to keep both Jamal Murray and Trey Lyles rolling. The duo is coming off of a combined 52 points and 13 rebounds in Friday’s win over Utah. Lyles scored a career-high 26 points in the game, and Murray made 6-of-7 3-pointers in the contest.

So how do the Nuggets start off the month 3-0? Start with these things…

Be Physical with Randolph: Even though some things change – Zach Randolph hitting 3-point shots – some things remain the same – Randolph playing a bruising style of basketball. Randolph has always been a load on the block, and the Nuggets will need to match his physicality When the Kings win games, Randolph is averaging 18.6 points and 7.6 rebounds. And he’ll make big shots in the fourth quarter. The Nuggets cannot afford to allow Randolph to get off to a quick start and settle into a groove.

Limit Cauley-Stein’s impact: When the Sacramento Kings win, Willie Cauley-Stein has a big impact, and it starts with his activity level. Cauley-Stein scores well in Kings’ victories (14.6 points), but it’s his rebounding (7.0) and shot blocking (1.3) that make the biggest difference. Still, the Nuggets have neutralized him in each of the first two matchups. He’s averaging just 2.0 points on 16.7 percent shooting (2-of-12) with 6.5 rebounds and not a single block or steal against Denver this season. It’s not a coincidence that the Kings have lost both matchups.

Continue working pace into half-court offense: When the Nuggets were here a little over a month ago, the energy they put on the court on offense was arguably the best in a single game all season long. They executed at a very high level. Since then, they’ve had many good moments, but they’ve slowed down a bit overall while their defense has improved. Sacramento is a team that needs the score to stay in a certain range – under 100 points – in order to give itself its best chance to win. Push this game well over 100 points, and it will be difficult for the Kings to play catch up.

INJURY REPORT: Paul Millsap (wrist) is out of the game.

Christopher Dempsey: and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.