When the Denver Nuggets last visited the California capitol in November, the Sacramento Kings beat them for the second time in three days en route to their best start in more than a decade.
Now the Nuggets look to move closer to .500 with their fourth straight victory in their return Friday night, while the Kings are on their second coach and trying to win consecutive games for the first time in six weeks.
Following a 110-105 victory at Denver on Nov. 3, Sacramento swept the home-and-home set with a 131-109 rout at Sleep Train Arena two days later as part of a 5-1 start that was the club’s best since 2001-02.
However, everything changed Nov. 28 when DeMarcus Cousins suffered a viral infection that caused him to miss almost three weeks. The Kings dropped eight of 10 without their star center and coach Michael Malone was fired Dec. 15.
Sacramento now hopes to build on perhaps its best win in 11 games under Tyrone Corbin. It allowed season lows in points and shooting percentage (32.6) in Wednesday’s 104-83 home victory over Oklahoma City to open a six-game homestand.
The Kings (15-20) had given up 115.1 points per game on 46.9 percent shooting over their previous seven.
”This feels like a good win,” said Cousins, who had 23 points and 15 rebounds. ”We’ve had other wins but with those wins, you could feel like it wasn’t a good win or a good way to win.”
Cousins has totaled 41 points and 30 boards in the past two games despite missing 29 of 40 shots. He’s averaged 26.0 points and 10.8 rebounds with a 55.3 field-goal percentage in his last five against the Nuggets (16-20).
The Kings haven’t won back-to-back contests since a three-game winning streak from Nov. 20-25, but they’ve won three in a row in this series and four of five since losing the previous nine in a row.
Although their two losses to Sacramento came during an inauspicious 1-6 start, the Nuggets have since gone 15-14 after Wednesday’s 93-90 win over Orlando extended their longest winning streak since a five-game run from Nov. 17-25.
Ty Lawson finished with 23 points Wednesday, while Arron Afflalo added 17 against his former club. Afflalo has scored 24.7 per game on 60.5 percent shooting in the three straight victories.
New starting center Jusuf Nurkic had eight points Wednesday in place of Timofey Mozgov, who was traded to Cleveland earlier in the day in exchange for two first-round draft picks.
”It’s never easy to trade a guy that does everything right, did everything we ask,” general manager Tim Connelly said. ”We just thought the opportunity to get two future assets was too good to pass up.”
The Nuggets have averaged 105.7 points on 50.6 percent shooting over their last three games. They’ve also improved defensively during the run, allowing 92.0 points per game – 11.5 less than their season average.
Kings swingman Rudy Gay has totaled 57 points in his last two home games. He’s scored 25.0 per game on 52.1 percent shooting in his past three meetings with the Nuggets.