The Sacramento Kings have had another nice layoff since returning from the All-Star break with a home win over the Denver Nuggets, who followed that meeting with a 20-point loss.
Their second matchup in five days comes Tuesday night with the Kings seeking a fifth win in seven games in the series, while both teams' coaches try to defeat their former employers.
Sacramento's 116-110 win over the Nuggets (22-34) on Friday has it averaging 115.0 points in consecutive victories after a crippling span of eight losses in nine games. The Kings (23-31) have shot 50.0 percent in the two wins, but they've also allowed at least 104 points in every game of the 3-8 span. Opponents have averaged 116.6 points and shot 48.2 percent while hitting 44.4 from 3-point range, though for a game at least, that was overshadowed by an individual performance.
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DeMarcus Cousins had 37 points and 20 rebounds on 12-of-20 shooting, notching his ninth career double-double with 20-plus points and rebounds to break the previous franchise record set by Chris Webber.
“(Cousins) was flat-out amazing. They couldn't stop him,” backup point guard Darren Collison said. “He's been playing like that all season.”
Cousins hasn't been held under 30 points in his last three games against the Nuggets, all of which have been double-doubles with averages of 33.0 points and 14.7 rebounds.
Rajon Rondo also had a big game, coming one assist short of his sixth triple-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds. The point guard has increased his offense in the last 10 games, averaging 14.6 points on 47.1 percent shooting while remaining consistent around his season average with 12.0 assists.
“I thought Rondo had great control of the game, not only down the stretch, (but) I think understanding who we were playing and what we had to do to be successful,” coach George Karl said.
This is Karl's second trip back to Denver since being fired by the Nuggets in June 2013 and hired in Sacramento last February. The first was a 122-111 Nuggets victory April 12, though the Kings were without Cousins and Rudy Gay.
After Sunday's 121-101 home loss to Boston, the Nuggets have allowed 108.5 points over a 1-3 span with opponents shooting 48.1 percent and 39.4 from 3-point range.
“Our defense is still somewhere in the Caribbean,” said Mike Malone, who's seeking his first win against his former team after coaching Sacramento in 2013-14 and through 24 games last season. “It was a lot more than just a lack of energy. It was a lack of fight, a lack of togetherness. … I thought we were a very selfish team, two things that I hate to see from any team, so hopefully we can find a way to straighten that out in the very near future.”
What happened against the Celtics had plenty to do with Boston outrebounding Denver 48-36, including 15-6 on the offensive glass, as well as the Nuggets matching a season high with 24 turnovers.
The issues on the glass might have had something to do with top rebounder Kenneth Faried being limited to 13 minutes due to illness.
Rookie Nikola Jokic handled much of the interior load, finishing with 23 points and 13 rebounds. It was his sixth double-double in the last 12 games, over which he's averaged 11.9 points and 8.3 rebounds.
The Kings will have Marco Belinelli back, and fellow reserve Omri Casspi practiced Monday after both were sidelined Friday because of tooth extractions during the break.