Nuggets face struggling Kings again, seek sixth straight win

Nuggets face struggling Kings again, seek sixth straight win

The Denver Nuggets have historically been poor on the road, but are starting to show they can win away from the highs.

Denver has a 10-8 road record after Tuesday night’s win in Sacramento, and the Nuggets can pick up another win when the same two teams play again in the Kings arena on Wednesday night.

The Nuggets rallied from a 20-point halftime deficit to beat Sacramento 113-106 for their fifth straight win, and they did it without two key pieces.

Aaron Gordon, star of the Christmas Day win over Phoenix, was a late scratch Tuesday with a shoulder strain and he saw the game in street clothes. Denver then lost Bruce Brown to a sprained ankle in the first half.

Coach Michael Malone said Brown’s injury did not appear serious, but both players are questionable for Wednesday night.

“Aaron Gordon woke up and that shoulder was pretty sore,” Malone said. “We’ll see how he feels (Wednesday). If he’s cleared and he’s good to go, great. If not, we’ll get him ready for Miami Friday night.”

The Kings played Tuesday without Domantas Sabonis because of a fractured right thumb suffered in Friday’s loss to Washington. Meanwhile, head coach Mike Brown was placed in health and safety protocol earlier on Tuesday and assistant Jordi Fernandez led the team.

The Kings did not announce whether Brown will be released for Game 2 against Denver.

Fernandez, a former Nuggets assistant under Malone, has seen what Nikola Jokic can do for a team, and Sacramento smartly made him the focus of Tuesday night’s defense. Jokic attempted only two shots in the first half and scored two points.

“Nikola is a great player, but talk about the definition of a selfless player,” Malone said. “I told him in the first half, ‘I have to give you more than two shots.’ He said, “Coach, it’s okay, they’re double-teaming me every time. I’m going to keep making the right play.” He never worries about these things; he just wants to win.”

Jokic finished with 20 points, 11 assists and was one rebound from a triple-double.

The Kings, meanwhile, have lost five of their last eight games, including two straight at home. Not having Sabonis is tough for a team trying to stay in the playoff race.

Sacramento bounced back from an 0-4 start this season and was four games over .500 before losing to the Wizards and Nuggets. After the loss to Washington, Brown lamented that the team can’t afford to let down against any opponent.

“If we think we’re just going to show up and go through the motions because our record is what it is, we’re going to be in for a rude awakening,” he said.

Without Sabonis on Tuesday night, Fernandez inserted Alex Len into the starting lineup after he didn’t play in the previous game. Len was no match for Jokic and scored just two points in 14 minutes and picked up four personal fouls.

De’Aaron Fox led Sacramento with 26 points and Kevin Huerter added 21.

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