What to Watch for as Nuggets Face Sacramento on Monday Night

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider

The Nuggets look to turn around recent road fortunes in a Monday night tilt against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center. It the second game of a road back-to-back for the Nuggets, who lost to the L.A. Lakers on Sunday night.

This game presents its own challenges apart from the opponent.

Starting power forward Paul Millsap is out of the game due to a left wrist sprain. Millsap, the Nuggets’ second-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder, suffered the injury early in the game against the Lakers. Also, starting small forward, Wilson Chandler, is questionable for the game with a sore back.

The Kings have struggled out of the gate, with a 4-12 record. This is the second matchup between the two teams, with the Nuggets winning the first go-around, 96-79, in the home opener at Pepsi Center on Oct. 21.

Here’s what the Nuggets need to do to put themselves in position to win.

Don’t let Sacramento dig in defensively: The Kings aren’t a remarkably different team from game-to-game on offense. They don’t score a ton of points whether they win or lose – they average 95.5 points in wins and 92.0 points in losses. What has swung wildly in wins and losses is Sacramento’s defense. In their four wins, opponents have averaged just 91 points on 38.6 percent shooting. In the 12 losses? Opponents are torching the Kings for 110.0 points on 49.5 percent from the field and 40.4 from the 3-point line. The Nuggets need to keep the pressure on and the pace high.

Get the pick-and-roll shoes on: Sacramento ranks in the bottom third of teams in defending the ball handler in pick-and-roll coverages. At any given point they have at least a couple of players who have shown to be vulnerable to allowing too much space for the offensive player to operate with, and giving up points as a result. Portland repeatedly attacked Zach Randolph in screen-roll plays a few days ago and was highly successful. This could be another chance for Jamal Murray and Will Barton in particular to get downhill quickly and finish at the rim.

Get control of turnovers: This has been a reoccurring theme for the Nuggets this season, but it is as simple as these numbers – when the Nuggets win, they average 14.3 turnovers. When they lose, that number balloons to 18.7 turnovers. And in the losses, the Nuggets are allowing 23 points off of those turnovers. This game won’t get to the helter-skelter levels that the Lakers can force upon teams, so there should be more opportunity to ease into a pace comfortable for the Nuggets to play in, which should support more solid execution and, hopefully, a reduction in turnovers.

Christopher Dempsey: christopher.dempsey@altitude.tv and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.