December 30, 2019 / 3:50 AM / 2 months ago

Nuggets rely on balanced attack to hold off reeling Kings

EditorsNote: Adds detail to timing of play by play in graf 6; other minor edits

Dec 29, 2019; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) attempts a shot as Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield (24) and forward Richaun Holmes (22) and guard Cory Joseph (9) defend in the second quarter at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Rookie Michael Porter Jr. had a season-high 19 points in his first career start, Will Barton also had 19 points, and the host Denver Nuggets beat the Sacramento Kings 120-115 on Sunday night.

Jerami Grant scored 18, Nikola Jokic had 17, Mason Plumlee had 15 off the bench, and Jamal Murray had 13 points and seven assists for Denver.

Nemanja Bjelica had 27 points, Buddy Hield scored 20, De’Aaron Fox added 18 points and 13 assists, and Richaun Holmes also scored 18 for the Kings, who have lost seven straight.

The Nuggets played without guard Gary Harris (left shin contusion) and forward Paul Millsap (left knee contusion).

Denver led by five at halftime but the Kings cut it to two on a 3-pointer from Bjelica midway through the period.

But Jokic hit a floater in the lane, Barton made a step-back jumper and Grant drained a long 3-pointer over the next two-and-a-half minutes to put the Nuggets ahead 85-76, and they took an 88-81 lead into the fourth quarter.

Fox’s layup in the first minute of the fourth kept it a seven-point game but Malik Beasley hit two jumpers and Monte Morris a layup on a feed from Plumlee to put Denver up 96-83 with 9:19 left.

Sacramento called a timeout and scored the next four points, but then gave up a 3-pointer and a putback dunk to Porter that made it 101-87.

The Kings went on a 15-4 run to get within three late in the fourth but the Nuggets hit their free throws in the final minutes to hold off the charge.

The Kings looked like the fresher team early, leading by one after the first quarter and building a seven-point lead on Trevor Ariza’s 3-pointer early in the second quarter.

Jokic picked up three fouls and played just 12 minutes in the first half, but the Nuggets rallied to take the lead on Porter’s layup with 4:42 left in the second. They increased the lead to seven late in the second quarter and settled for a 62-57 advantage at the half.

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