Nuggets-Kings Preview

While the Denver Nuggets usually take care of business at home

against the Sacramento Kings, it’s been a different story playing

them in California.

Seeking a fifth consecutive win overall, the Nuggets hope to

avoid a 25th loss in 28 road games against the Kings when the teams

finish a home-and-home set Friday night.

Denver (45-29), sitting fifth in the Western Conference,

improved to 13-4 since shipping Carmelo Anthony to New York prior

to the trade deadline with a 104-90 victory over Sacramento on

Wednesday night.

The Nuggets are outscoring opponents by 17.5 points during their

four-game win streak.

While they’ve won five straight and 11 of 14 at home in this

series, they have lost four in a row at Sacramento while giving up

an average of 111.0 points. Denver has dropped 24 of 27 there,

including a 122-102 defeat Jan. 6 as Kings rookie DeMarcus Cousins

and guard Tyreke Evans combined for 47 points.

Sacramento (21-53) led by as many as 13 on Wednesday but was

outscored 63-39 in the second half and had a four-game winning

streak snapped.

“Beating a team back-to-back in the NBA is a difficult

challenge,” coach George Karl told the Nuggets’ official website.

“I don’t care what the records say. They beat us in Sacramento and

kind of embarrassed us a little bit on national TV, so they are not

afraid of us.”

With Anthony out of the picture, the Nuggets’ willingness to

play as a team has largely contributed to their recent success.

Denver is averaging 24.7 assists since the deal – tied for the

fourth-most in the league since the All-Star break – and 3.5 more

than it averaged before the blockbuster trade.

“I compare it to when I was in college,” said guard Raymond

Felton, who helped lead North Carolina to the 2005 NCAA

championship.

“We had a team full of good players. Everybody can score. We

just kind of came together. Everybody didn’t care who was scoring

or who was getting the shots. We were worrying more about winning.

We had a lot of success that way and that’s what’s happening so far

here.”

The Kings also have done a good job spreading the ball around

since getting Evans back in the lineup. They’ve averaged 25.8

assists in four games since the reigning Rookie of the Year

returned after missing 19 with a foot injury.

Evans had 22 points Wednesday while Marcus Thornton led

Sacramento with 27. Thornton is averaging 22.4 points since he was

acquired from New Orleans at the trade deadline and is pleased with

the Kings’ recent progress.

“We are jelling as a team,” said Thornton, averaging 27.7 points

in the last three games. “It all comes together having a young team

we are picking up momentum going into the next season.”

Denver, scoring an NBA-best 107.6 points per game, has averaged

just 90.0 on 39.7 percent shooting en route to back-to-back road

losses. The Nuggets are 1-13 away from home when scoring less than

100 points.

Forward Kenyon Martin left in the first quarter Wednesday with

flu-like symptoms and his status for Friday is unknown. Guard Arron

Afflalo, though, is expected to return after missing four games

with a strained left hamstring.