National Basketball Association
Nuggets-Kings Preview
National Basketball Association

Nuggets-Kings Preview

Updated Mar. 4, 2020 3:02 p.m. ET

The Sacramento Kings and Denver Nuggets each underwent minor changes at the trade deadline. The Kings made a tweak to their coaching staff, while the Nuggets made sure they got something in return for a veteran player.

Each must make a move quickly if they hope to re-enter the Western Conference's postseason picture, a task that begins with Friday night's matchup in Sacramento.

The Kings (22-31) might have taken the cake as the NBA's most dysfunctional team at the All-Star break with tension continuing to build between coach George Karl and upper management. Karl was rumored to be on his way out during the team's 2-8 stretch before the hiatus, but a meeting with general manager Vlade Divac saved his job.

After deals for Pau Gasol and Iman Shumpert fizzled before Thursday's deadline, however, the Kings fired one of Karl's favorite assistants, Vance Walberg.


"I don't understand it. It's never happened in my time as a coach," Karl said. "You move forward and try to make the best of it."

Sacramento is reportedly seeking a more defensive-minded replacement for Walberg.

That's where the issues fall for the Kings, who have surrendered an average of 117.3 points on 48.3 percent shooting in the last 10 games, including three in a row with at least 120 allowed for the first time since January 2009.

The Kings rank last in the league by allowing 109.1 per game, a mark that's on pace to be the franchise's worst since an average of 109.3 during its 17-win 2008-09 season.

However, the Kings are still just four games removed from the West's eighth seed thanks to an offense that ranks third with an average of 107.1 points, which trails only Golden State (115.5) and Oklahoma City (110.1).

DeMarcus Cousins is averaging a career-high 26.8 points and has double-doubles with at least 30 points in his last two games against Denver.

Rajon Rondo's 11.9 assists per game are on pace to be the most in the NBA since John Stockton's 12.3 in 1994-95. He posted at least 15 in the final four games before the break, a number he has reached twice in 11 games against the Nuggets.

Denver has won the last two in this series and 12 of 16 dating to March 2011. That span includes wins in six of eight meetings in Sacramento, though the teams have split the last four meetings there.

The Nuggets (22-32) dealt 32-year-old Randy Foye to Oklahoma City on Thursday in exchange for backup point guard D.J. Augustin and forward Steve Novak, whom they reportedly agreed with on a buyout that allows him to sign with another team. Foye was in the last year of his contract.

Denver won three of four entering the break but still sits a half-game behind the Kings. The Nuggets are 2-1 on a four-game trip after Will Barton scored 15 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter of a 103-92 win at Detroit on Feb. 10.

Barton ranks ninth in the league in fourth-quarter scoring with an average of 6.3 points. He is the only Denver player to score at least 15 in the fourth quarter this season, doing it five times - two more than LeBron James.

"We need him to score," coach Michael Malone said. "Will has been a spark plug for us all year."


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