The Denver Nuggets hope to begin turning around their fortunes away from home when they visit the struggling Sacramento Kings on Monday. Denver has won seven of its nine games at home but fell to 2-5 on the road with Sunday’s 127-109 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers as leading scorer Nikola Jokic and coach Michael Malone both were ejected in the second quarter.
“We have not been the same team on the road,” Malone told NBA.com. before the contest. “That’s our challenge moving forward. … Good teams protect their home court. Good teams also find a way to win on the road, and that’s something that we have yet to do consistently.” The Kings have dropped four of their last five games, but coach Dave Joerger is starting to see more of what his team needs to be successful. “If you keep chipping away and that becomes the standard you play at, we will see improvement,” Joerger told the Sacramento Bee. “And also start getting a reputation with other players in the league, you start gaining respect from other players by how hard you play.” Sacramento will need a better effort than the one it put forth against the Nuggets on Oct. 21, when it shot just 36.5 percent and managed 52 points in the first three quarters of a 96-79 setback.
TV: 10 p.m. ET, Altitude (Colorado), NBCSN California (Sacramento)
ABOUT THE NUGGETS (9-7): Denver may have lost more than a game Sunday as second-leading scorer Paul Millsap left the contest with a sprained left wrist after scoring just five points in 13 minutes. The team’s leading scorer, Jokic has cooled off a bit, averaging just 9.3 points and going 9-for-27 from the field over the last four contests. Jamal Murray averaged 27 points in his previous three games before scoring 10 on Sunday, but Malone told NBA.com, “I love the pace he’s playing at. He’s got to set the pace that we want to play at, he’s got to be aggressive and he’s got to play with confidence.”
ABOUT THE KINGS (4-12): As second-leading scorer Buddy Hield (11.6 points) could miss his second straight game with an ankle injury, Sacramento will hope for continued production from veteran guard George Hill, who is averaging 13.5 points over his last four games. Former first-round pick Willie Cauley-Stein has averaged 20 points in his last two contests, but the Kings will need to be consistently sharp at the other end of the court in order to be successful. “Every night, we have to play our best to give us a chance to win,” Cauley-Stein told the Bee, “and that starts on the defensive end.”
1. Sacramento PF Zach Randolph, who is the team’s leading scorer (12.4 points), is averaging 13.8 points this month after contributing just 9.8 per game in October.
2. Denver SG Gary Harris has averaged 21 points in the last two contests after missing the previous two games with a shoulder injury.
3. Kings rookie G Frank Mason III scored a career-high 13 points over 20 minutes in Saturday’s 102-90 loss to Portland.
PREDICTION: Kings 104, Nuggets 99