Nuggets down Kings without Malone, Millsap
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Wes Unseld Jr. walked out of the Denver Nuggets’ locker room and eyed about a dozen media members circled about, waiting to talk to him.
“This,” he said with just a bit of humor, “is the hard part.”
On Monday it was. Unseld ran the show from the sideline in the absence of head coach Michael Malone, and he watched his team rain down 3-pointers in a 114-98 thumping of the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center.
“Kudos to those guys in the locker room,” Unseld said. “The minute they got in here from the bus, they knew it was a task at hand. We were under adverse circumstances, and we had no other option but to pull together.”
Denver did that primarily by protecting the ball and then watching that translate into highly proficient offense. The Nuggets canned 15 3-pointers, shooting 11 of 19 from long range in the second half en route to winning for the third time in eight road games this season.
Will Barton scored a game-high 25 points and went 5-for-6 from 3-point range for Denver. Gary Harris added 20 points and made three 3-pointers.
“It started with defense. I’ve been slacking there the last couple of games,” Barton said. “I knew if I got back to playing defense, everything else would fall into place.”
Unseld coached the game after the NBA’s decision to suspend Malone for one contest. Malone ran onto the court in the second quarter of Denver’s 127-109 loss at the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday and bumped an official.
The Nuggets were also without second-leading scorer Paul Millsap (15.3 points per game), who sprained his left wrist against the Lakers.
Without them, Denver put up its second-best road scoring performance of the season. They scored 124 in a win at Brooklyn on Oct. 29.
The Nuggets (10-7) also outrebounded Sacramento 14-5 on the offensive glass, an advantage that led to a 19-6 rout in second-chance points.
“That’s a little bit of our makeup of how our team is made,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. “There are some instances that really bothered me. We had some guys leaking out, standing at half-court, and that I won’t have.”
Kosta Koufos came off the bench to score a season-high 16 points for Sacramento, which lost at home for the first time in four games. George Hill also scored 16 and added four steals for Sacramento.
The score was tied at 69 when Denver went on a 22-11 run that spanned the final six minutes of the third quarter. The Nuggets went 7 of 12 from 3-point range in the period and made five in the key stretch, with Barton hitting two and Harris and Trey Lyles one each.
Denver scored 67 points in the second half, the most against the Kings this season.
“Our intensity kind of dropped,” Sacramento rookie guard De’Aaron Fox said. “They started making shots. We’ve just got to be able to keep that defensive intensity up the entire game.”
Jamal Murray scored 18 points, Nikola Jokic added 16 and Juancho Hernangomez 11 for the Nuggets, who made 49 percent of their shots from the field.
Jokic grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds for Denver, which beat Sacramento for the fourth straight time.
Fox and Zach Randolph scored 12 points apiece for the Kings (4-13). Frank Mason added 11 points, and Bogdan Bogdanovic had 10.
Starting forwards Garrett Temple and Skal Labissiere combined for only eight points and 3-for-13 shooting for Sacramento.
NOTES: The NBA rescinded the fine given to Nuggets C Nikola Jokic for his ejection in the Sunday night game against the Los Angeles Lakers. In a statement, the league said Jokic properly received the technical but that he should not have been ejected. Jokic played 35 minutes against Sacramento. ... Kings G Buddy Hield missed his second straight game with a sprained right ankle. ... Nuggets F Wilson Chandler missed the game with a strained back. ... Kings F Vince Carter has missed seven games with kidney stones, and there is no timeline for his return.