Winning in Denver is a tough task under any circumstances, but it will be even tougher for the Sacramento Kings when they visit the Nuggets on Sunday night.
Both teams played Saturday, but Denver was at home and played an afternoon game. The Kings, meanwhile, hosted Phoenix and then flew out after the game and will be short-handed when they play one of the best teams in the Western Conference.
Marvin Bagley III is out with a left foot injury that could cost him extended time, while guard De’Aaron Fox sat out the 112-110 loss to Phoenix with back spasms.
Add to all the drama that has surrounded star guard Buddy Hield and center Dewayne Dedmon, and Sacramento heads into 2020 in a bit of a funk.
After a double-overtime loss to Minnesota on Thursday, Hield was critical of how he was used in late-game situations that night and in the previous game. He apologized to his teammates the next day for those comments.
“He showed maturity and responsibility and addressed his teammates before we started, and I was happy to see that,” coach Luke Walton told reporters after practice on Friday. “To me, all that stuff should be kept in house. You’ve got to always understand, this is an emotional game, and I get that … but we’ve got to do a better job of keeping that in house.”
Meanwhile, Shams Charania of The Athletic has reported that Dedmon wants to be traded.
Hield had 23 points in 37 minutes on Saturday but couldn’t stop the Kings from losing their sixth in a row.
Denver is coming off a 119-110 win against Memphis, rebounding from a disappointing home loss to New Orleans on Christmas night. Coach Michael Malone criticized his team’s effort in that game and reiterated his feelings before the win over the Grizzlies.
“When you let a team come into your building and outwork you for 14 50-50 balls and dominate the glass in the second half, that’s not game plan, that’s just want, effort,” Malone said. “The good thing is that’s not who we’ve been.”
The Nuggets have been one of the better defensive teams this season and rank No. 1 in the NBA in points allowed per game.
Part of that has been the work of forward Paul Millsap down low, but he may not play against Sacramento due to a left quadriceps contusion. The injury kept him out of Saturday’s game, and he has been bothered by it at points this season.
Denver had to hold on against the Grizzlies after building a 23-point lead in the first half. Memphis scored just 11 points in the first quarter but had 42 in the fourth, when it nearly rallied to tie it.
“To be honest, we’ve been doing it the whole season,” said Nikola Jokic, who had his seventh triple-double of the season in the win over the Grizzlies. “The teams are getting back into the games. In the first quarter, they score 11 points, and in the fourth they score 42. It’s a huge difference.
“We have to be focused on closing the halves, closing the quarters, closing the games.”
–Field Level Media