Kings nip Nuggets without Evans

The revamped Sacramento Kings won only 11 home games a year ago in

posting the worst record in the NBA.

Win No. 11 this year at home was a special one, 106-101 over

the struggling Denver Nuggets on Monday night. It comes after the

youthful Kings lost back-to-back games in overtime at home to

Cleveland and the Lakers.

Andres Nocioni made four 3-pointers and scored a season-high

21 points for Sacramento.

With standout rookie Tyreke Evans nursing a sore ankle in

street clothes, the Kings produced another strong effort against an

elite team, defeating the Northwest Division-leading Nuggets and

improving to 11-5 at home.

“This team has a lot of personality and plays with confidence

and energy,” Nocioni said. “We lost two tough games to Cleveland

and the Lakers, but we still came here ready to play tonight.”

But getting the victory was far from easy. The Nuggets came

out strong early and had an 11-point lead in running by the Kings

for much of the first quarter. But the hustling Kings held the

Nuggets to 38 points in the middle two quarters and maintained

their poise in the fourth for the victory.

“Losing is extremely frustrating,” Nuggets coach George Karl

said. “You don’t like to lose, but Sacramento is playing at a good

level and we are not playing at a great level. I told the team the

best they have going is that we have three days of practice.”

Rookie Omri Casspi made a 3-pointer from the corner to put

the Kings ahead for good at 97-96. Following a missed shot by

Carmelo Anthony, Beno Udrih converted on a fastbreak for a

three-point play to give Sacramento a 100-96 lead with 1:41

remaining.

Udrih scored 17 points and had seven assists and Donte Greene

also had 17 points for the Kings. Jason Thompson contributed 15

points and 11 rebounds.

Nocioni had shot 1-for-17 and scored 10 points in the

previous four games. Coming off the bench against Denver, he made a

3-pointer on his first shot and was 6-of-7 overall in 25 minutes.

Nocioni added six rebounds, two assists and a block.

“It helped a lot making that first shot,” Nocioni said.

“Sometimes you struggle with your shooting, so when you make that

first one it feels really good.”

What also felt good afterward for the Kings was making

Anthony earn his 34 points. The NBA’s leading scorer this season,

Anthony shot 15-of-35 and was 3-of-7 on free throws. He had eight

fourth-quarter points, but with Greene in his face late in the

game, he missed two straight jumpers.

“We told him [Donte] if Carmelo doesn’t get 40, we’ve got a

chance,” Kings coach Paul Westphal joked. “I thought Donte really

took the challenge and made it tough on Carmelo. He didn’t give him

a whole bunch of free throws and made him earn his points, which is

all you can do with superstars.”

Nene had a season-high 25 points for the Nuggets, who lost

their third straight and fifth in six games. Kenyon Martin added 10

points and 12 rebounds. The Nuggets made just 20-of-35 free throws

and shot 41 percent overall.

The Nuggets are a different team on the road, where they have

dropped six straight. They came into the game averaging just over

100 points in road games while averaging 114 in Denver, where they

are 13-2.

“At the end of the day we’re going to have to get a win on

the road,” Aaron Afflalo said. “We need some more practice time to

regain our focus on whatever it may be at the end of the day we

have to do to get a win.”

The Nuggets cut the lead to 104-101 on a short baseline shot

by Anthony Carter with 4.1 seconds left. But Udrih made two free

throws to secure the victory.

Driving to the basket, Nocioni drew a fifth foul on Anthony

with 7:58 remaining. Nocioni made both free throws and a short time

later hit a 3-pointer from the corner, putting the Kings ahead

90-84.

It didn’t help that Denver was also missing its point guard.

Chauncey Billups is nursing a strained left groin that he

originally injured Dec. 16. He sat out three straight games, then

played only the first half Christmas Day at Portland when he

reaggravated the injury.

Nocioni made a late 3-pointer for the Kings, who trailed most

of the third quarter but finished strong to take a 75-70 lead into

the fourth.

Anthony was aggressive from the start, taking 15 shots in the

game’s first 17 minutes. He scored 19 first-half points in helping

the Nuggets to a 48-47 lead. Nocioni scored 11 points for the

Kings.

Notes: Geoff Petrie has agreed to a contact

extension to remain president of basketball operations for the

Sacramento Kings. The team has called a news conference for Tuesday

to announce the deal. … Sacramento reserves outscored the Nuggets

20-4 in the opening half. With the shot clock nearing zero early in

the third quarter, Anthony threw up a long 3-pointer that went in.

He shrugged his shoulders and laughed heading downcourt after the

shot.