Kings-Nuggets Preview

The Sacramento Kings have won four straight games for the first

time in nearly 16 months, the first three of which came at the end

of a surprisingly successful road trip.

Considering their next stop, it seems awfully unlikely that

streak will continue.

The surging Denver Nuggets look for a 10th consecutive victory

at the Pepsi Center on Wednesday night in the opener of a

home-and-home set with Sacramento, which can make it five wins in a

row for the first time in more than four years.

As Denver (44-29) looks to maintain its hold on fifth place in

the Western Conference – it’s currently 1 1/2 games ahead of No. 6

Portland – a back-to-back series with Sacramento (21-52), at first

look, has to seem awfully enticing.

But lately, the Kings have looked little like a team stuck in

last place in the Pacific Division. Sacramento bounced back from a

132-92 loss at Chicago on March 21 by concluding its road trip with

three straight wins, then shot 53.3 percent in a 116-113 victory

over Phoenix on Tuesday.

The recent return of Tyreke Evans, who had 11 points, 10

rebounds and eight assists Tuesday, has certainly played a part in

the Kings’ resurgence, but Marcus Thornton has been perhaps the

biggest reason. He had 24 points against the Suns and has averaged

24.3 in his last six games.

“Things are coming together,” coach Paul Westphal told NBA.com.

“Since the trade for Marcus, our roster has been more balanced. As

we get healthy and are able to sort things out, I think we are

showing that there are a lot of reasons for optimism.”

Sacramento hasn’t won five straight since Jan. 31-Feb. 10, 2007,

and it hasn’t recorded four consecutive road victories since Dec.

11, 2004-Jan. 4, 2005.

Erasing those droughts Wednesday won’t be easy. The Nuggets and

Lakers are the only two teams who haven’t lost at home since the

All-Star break, but while Los Angeles has won nine straight at

Staples Center by a fairly impressive 10.9 points per game, that

pales in comparison to Denver’s dominance.

The Nuggets won their final home game with Carmelo Anthony

before the break by one point over Dallas. Since the trade, they’ve

won their eight games at the Pepsi Center by an average of 20.4

points.

Four players with 17 points apiece – Danilo Gallinari, Ty

Lawson, Chris Andersen and Al Harrington – led the way in the

latest rout, 114-94 over Washington on Friday.

“We’re approaching every game like it’s a playoff game,” point

guard Raymond Felton told the Nuggets’ official website. “We’ve got

to prepare ourselves. We’ve got to get ready and stay focused.”

One of the league’s deepest teams could get a few more key

contributors back Wednesday. Wilson Chandler, who sat out Friday

with a lingering ankle injury, is probable, while guard Arron

Afflalo, who’s missed six of eight games with a strained hamstring,

is a game-time decision.

Chandler averaged 11.0 points in two games versus Sacramento

this season while with the Knicks, but scored a career-high 35

against the Kings on Feb. 9, 2010.

The teams, which wrap up their season series Friday at Power

Balance Pavilion, have split their first two meetings, with each

winning at home.

Evans had 27 points and a season-high 12 assists in Sacramento’s

122-102 victory Jan. 6.