Nuggets visit Kings on second night of back-to-back set

NBA

The Sacramento Kings own the NBA’s longest active playoff drought at 14 seasons, but the way they’ve played the first week of this campaign, there’s a chance the skid won’t reach 15.

The Kings recorded an impressive road win over the Denver Nuggets on opening night, then beat Phoenix on Saturday before losing to the Suns on Sunday night.

Sacramento gets a rematch with the Nuggets on Tuesday night in the California capital.

Denver is coming off a 124-111 home win over the Houston Rockets on Monday night, its first victory of the season following two home defeats.

De’Aaron Fox is leading the way for the Kings, averaging 19 points and six assists. Buddy Hield is contributing 17.7 points per game, the most impressive two coming on a tip at the buzzer to beat the Nuggets in overtime.

Sacramento also is getting some solid minutes from rookie Tyrese Haliburton, who is averaging 9.7 points and five assists early on. His best offensive game came Sunday when he scored 15 points and dished out six assists.

Fox has been impressed by his young teammate so far.

“He understands the game really well,” Fox said. “He plays beyond his years, and that’s a helpful thing for himself and the team.”

Haliburton, 20, has not been awed by the jump from Iowa State to the NBA.

“My whole life, I’ve just wanted to be the best version of myself and obviously, as a kid, I’ve always wanted to be the best player in the world,” Haliburton said following the Sunday loss to Phoenix. “And those are obviously my aspirations. To do that, I can’t come out here and be timid or nervous.”

Denver are getting some solid individual efforts but are searching for some chemistry.

Nikola Jokic has been outstanding so far, logging two triple-doubles and one double-double in the three games. He set a career high with 18 assists against the Rockets and tied Fat Lever for most triple-doubles in franchise history with 43.

“I don’t think he cares who he’s playing against,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “Big, small, that’s how Nikola plays every night. That’s why he’s a great player, he makes everybody better.”

Jamal Murray has come alive in the past six quarters, and Gary Harris broke out of a shooting slump with 14 points Monday night.

The Nuggets had effort issues the first two games but came out energized Monday, putting up 70 points in the first half. They also did a better job on the glass, outrebounding the Rockets 52-38 after losing that category in the first two games.

“The biggest thing for me is our rebounding,” Malone said before the Houston game. “Rebounding correlates to winning. Last year, we were 12-17 when we were outrebounded; the year before we were 10-16 when we were outrebounded. So far this year, we are 0-2 when we are outrebounded. We have to show some growth in that area of the game in order for us to give ourselves a chance.”

Malone is also looking forward to playing forward JaMychal Green, an offseason free-agent acquisition. Green missed the first three games with a left calf strain but has started practicing. Without him available, the Nuggets have used smaller lineups at times.

–Field Level Media

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