Game Preview: Nuggets Eye Second Consecutive Win in Contest Against Kings
With 20 days left in March, this is the penultimate home game of the month for the Nuggets. They know that with eight road games in their last nine overall in March, they have to get this one against the struggling Sacramento Kings.
The Nuggets enter the game having beaten the L.A. Lakers on Friday night to snap a small losing skid and keep pace with the L.A. Clippers – and every other team within striking distance – in the Western Conference playoff race. The Clippers beat Orlando on Saturday night to move a half-game up, plus a tiebreaker, on the Nuggets for the eighth spot.
Already, the Nuggets’ 36 wins are tied for the second-most they’ve had in the last five years. Their 25-10 home record is their best since the 2012-13 season. They’ll look for another victory in a rare afternoon game before heading off to Los Angeles for a rematch against the Lakers on Tuesday.
What do the Nuggets need to do to have a good chance to beat the Kings? Start with these things…
Get Gary Harris to 25 points. In all of the talk about players adjusting to the re-entrance of All-Star Paul Millsap to the lineup, Gary Harris has quietly just kept things business as usual. He’s been solid all season long, but the Nuggets win more the more he scores. The Nuggets are 7-2 this season when Harris hits for 25 or more points. They are 10-4 when Harris scores 23 or more points. The lesson? Get Gary Harris to at least 23 points and the odds the team will win are very, very good.
Rinse and repeat for Jokić/Millsap. The duo, which is under so much scrutiny, silenced the critics with a combined 42 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and three blocks. They worked well together on the court, and if the Nuggets can get similar production out of both Millsap and Jokić, they’ll be in a good space.
Get off to a good start. Not only are the Nuggets 24-6 this season when they win the first quarter, they are facing a Kings team that struggles to score overall and tends to fade a bit as the game wears on. These are Sacramento’s quarter-by-quarter averages: 24.3 (1st), 25.9 (2nd), 25.3 (3rd), 25.2 (4th). Get out to a quick start and the Kings will find it difficult to keep up with the pace and the high scoring.
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.