As always, the Sacramento Kings played the Denver Nuggets hard and took another from their old coach Michael Malone, winning 125-115, dropping Denver to 1-3 early in the season. Nikola Jokic had another triple double with 36 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists and Michael Porter Jr. . added 30 points and 10 boards, but Denver gave the Kings a second quarter with 42 points on cruel defense and ran out of gas on the second night of a duel and only 15 points on the fourth. The defense suffered every quarter but the third, and Denver just didn’t have the touch to resume play after taking the lead after a big run late in the third quarter. De’Aaron Fox had 24 points and some backbreakers on the line to hasten an even kings attack with 7 players up double digits to Denver 4.
The Nuggets started the game with a series of ball movements that resulted in a base support from Jokic to MPJ. Jokic pushed in for an easy bench shot and then a beautiful cut from Gary Harris for the goalkeeper layup and a Jokic streak for an 8-2 Morris runaway in Denver.
De’Aaron Fox hit a toilet bowl three and a putback dunk helped Sacramento win back as they picked up the intensity, and a Buddy Hield 3 tied them down at 4 p.m. about halfway through the quarter. Jokic got a dunk and Malone got a tech when he complained about some unsolicited holding fouls from Sacramento on Denver’s All Star. The Kings had a 12-2 run until Harris lost a Jokic cent. Jokic linked it with a putback at 24, Morris hit an open 3 in the transition, and Jokic took over with some passes and drove to the hoop to increase the lead to 5 and the bank held the lead on a bucket, 34-32 after one.
Barton opened the second with a 3, supported by Facundo Campazzo, but answered by Haliburton. Bjelica added another three for Sacramento to tie it at 38, then the teams traded 3s. The teams battled for points with a series of turnovers showing up as another highlight from Campazzo to Barton, but neither team was able to retreat. MPJ forced a couple of Kings to dive in, but Marvin Bagley, his second three and a turnover from Monte Morris, resulted in a Kings runout and a 53-47 lead for the Kings.
The nuggets defense was out of order, giving up three and some awkward rotations and turnovers. The Kings extended the lead to 10 by less than 2 minutes, Jokic had another weird turnover, and Bagley took an undisputed dunk as Sacramento took 2. Quarter 42 sat against Denver and led 74-62.
Jokic took his third foul in the first minute of the third quarter, but gave MPJ a swipe as Denver was also working on its defensive rotations. The Kings were making sales and had the hustle and bustle on their side early, but MPJ hit another 3 and went coast to coast to lay down over Bagley and make it 78-69, Kings. Porter got a block, Jokic assisted with buckets and made a three, and Porter’s free throws reduced him to 81-78. Harris’ steal and lay-up cut it to 1 and Jokic played a 3-point game to regain the lead for Denver.
The Denver Defense held a lid on the rim as they extended the lead to 6, but Jokic and MPJ split Sacramento in the third when Jokic bombed a three for a 94-87 lead. Porter hit another three, and both he and Jokic played essentially the full quarter, leading Denver back to a 100-96 lead.
MPJ hit a bucket at the beginning of the fourth, Isaiah Hartenstein failed to land on the tire at the transition, and Barton was charged with an indictment. MPJ missed a rabbit, but Denver was still 4 points ahead. His pass to Campazzo resulted in a Hocket Assist at a Dozier Three, but Sacramento refused to leave when De’Aaron Fox stepped back three and Haliburton followed with his own.
Fox briefly took the lead back for Sacramento, but Jokic came back after 9 minutes and went back to work to assist Dozier with a layup. Morris missed a pair of threesomes and the two teams traded leads by tight margins. Sacramento retreated to a 5 point lead at 113-108 after Denver had some shots and some unlucky turnovers. Jokic was blocked and playing on a back to back looked like it was finally catching up with Denver as they were in the first 8 minutes of the 4th. scored only 8 points. Denver kept getting called out for bad sales and couldn’t find a way to score. The Kings extended the lead to 120: 108 at the end of a 20-3 run in Sacramento with a three dagger from Haliburton. Morris eventually broke the series, but it was too little, too late. MPJ’s attempt to foul three failed, Fox completed it, and Sacramento won 125-115.
MPJ is both a blessing and a curse, but he must be watching TV. Michael Porter Jr. . is essentially in its sophomore year with just 900 regular season minutes and a playoff run to its name. In the first half he was a tragedy in defense, always in the wrong place, and his mistakes carried over from possession to possession from minute to minute. But his goal was on point and he carried that into the second half as he improved his defensive execution.
MPJ and Jokic tossed Denver on their backs, dragging them back to the lead in the third quarter with a ricochet and a shootout to amaze any basketball fan. They fell short in the end, but the look at what MPJ can do to Jokic when he’s in the right place is so promising. Denver’s offensive potential has gotten out of hand, and Porter has nearly limitless advantages in that regard. It’s the defensive end that he needs to progress on, and if it’s a two step forward and one step backward situation for part of the year, Denver will have to get out. The juice is worth the pressure.
Jokic is amazing and his focus is laser sharp early this year, but sometimes it’s not enough. With 26 points, 11 assists and 6 boards through three quarters, Nikola took herself to the foul line and made sure Denver stayed in the game without Murray. His 10 turnovers for the game were a problem as his passport in 4th. unfortunately got a little desperate trying to create opportunities for a tired team that they couldn’t pay off. He ran over Fox for his fourth foul and in the end didn’t want to score, but create – and without enough goalscorers to redeem the passes, the Nuggets’ tired legs simply ran out of gas. It happens, but Denver needs more help with its MVP on both ends.
It can’t always be just the Jokic Show. The Denver bench was outperformed at 35:19. I understand Murray was out and a banker (Morris) put him on the grid, but the Nuggets lost three out of four and had to play 40 minutes apiece against Jokic and Porter just had nothing to offer – again. The defensive slip-ups were by no means all MPJ. The lack of offensive creation without Jokic was glaring.
If your offensive powerhouse scores a triple-double on average for the season, you need to do more to get those gains. Denver has to do better when it comes to scoring wins against teams that are better than. Two defeats against the kings just hurt.
Denver Nuggets, Sacramento Kings, Nikola Jokić, NBA, Jamal Murray
World News – USA – Review: Denver falls in Sacramento, 125-115
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