|6:00 PM PT7:00 PM MT8:00 PM CT9:00 PM ET1:00 GMT9:00 6:00 PM MST8:00 PM EST5:00 UAE (+1)03:0021:00 ET8:00 PM CTNaN:� , October 23, 2018
Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado Attendance: 13,214
Nuggets aim for 4-0 start as they host Kings
Sacramento Kings at Denver Nuggets
- The Kings beat the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Sunday, 131-120, picking up their first win of the year after losses to the Jazz and Pelicans. Last season, Sacramento lost nine of its first 10 road games before going 12-19 (.387) away from home the rest of the way.
- The Nuggets beat the Warriors, 100-98, to move to 3-0, their first undefeated start through three games since 2009-10. This is the second time since last season that Denver has held Golden State under 100 points -- only the Jazz (three times) have pulled this off as many or more times in that span.
- Mike Malone lost the first five matchups against the Kings as Nuggets coach, but has seen his team go 5-1 since. In the five losses, the Nuggets allowed 116.2 points per game, but they have locked it down since, allowing an average of 95.8 points.
- Willie Cauley-Stein averaged a career high in points (12.8), rebounds (7.0), assists (2.4) and steals last season playing a career-high 28 minutes per game. Early this season, he has upped his field goal percentage to 62.5 percent (from 50.2 last season), and is averaging 18.7 points.
- Nikola Jokic is averaging 7.3 assists this season after chipping in with 6.1 helpers per game last season. Jokic has 480 assists since the beginning of last season -- the next closest center, Al Horford, has 357 assists in that span.
- Sacramento ranks third in the NBA in field goal percentage in the early going at 52.8 percent -- last season the Kings shot 45.0 percent, fourth worst in the Western Conference. Denver has held opponents to 41.2 percent shooting this season, ranking fourth in the NBA and second in the West (LAC -- 40.6).
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Beating the Phoenix Suns in their home opener was predictable, but defeating the reigning NBA champs less than 24 hours later was even more rewarding for the Denver Nuggets.
They'll take that momentum and an unbeaten record into Tuesday night when they host the Sacramento Kings. The Nuggets (3-0) are trying to win their first four games for the first time since going 5-0 in the 2009-10 season.
Denver's fast start is due in big part to its defense. No opponent has eclipsed the 100-point plateau, including Golden State. The Warriors scored 98 and were denied the century mark on an unlikely block by reserve forward Juancho Hernangomez in the final seconds Sunday night.
"If we defend, we can pretty much outscore everyone in this league," forward Torrey Craig said after Sunday's win. "Defense is really our main focus this year."
That 100-98 win also topped a big opening week for center Nikola Jokic, who was named the Western Conference player of the week on Monday. Jokic joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only two players in NBA history to post a 30-plus point triple-double and be perfect from the field, which he accomplished Saturday night.
Jokic 23, averaged 26.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.67 steals and 1.00 blocks in Denver's three wins while shooting .632 from the field and .500 from 3-point range. He became the first player ever to record a 30-plus point triple-double on 11 or fewer field-goal attempts.
His big week, and plenty of help from Gary Harris, helped the Nuggets overcome the loss of swingman Will Barton. Barton suffered a hip/core muscle strain Saturday, which was diagnosed after an MRI was performed Sunday. The Denver Post reported Monday he will have surgery on Tuesday and be out until December.
Craig started in place of Barton against the Warriors and will stay in that role against the Kings.
Stopping Sacramento's offense will be a challenge. The Kings (1-2) are averaging 125.7 points a game and are coming off a 131-120 win at Oklahoma City on Sunday night. They hope they're No. 2 offense can keep it up in Denver.
"You know with the youth that we have, with the athleticism that we have, we're going to push the pace," guard De'Aaron Fox told The Sacramento Bee after Sunday's win. "So they're asking a lot from me to play like that for such a long time, but I want to do that. I want to be able to do that."
Scoring is up around the NBA, with every team averaging more than 102 points after Sunday's schedule. Sacramento's early results are striking because it finished last in the league in 2017-18 at 98.8 points a game.
The Kings could struggle to hit that total against Denver. The Nuggets are allowing just 95.7 points a game and have been stingy in the fourth quarter. In their opener, they clamped down in Los Angeles to beat the Clippers with a late defensive surge.
Then Hernangomez came up with a big block on Damian Jones to keep the Warriors from reaching 100 points.
"This is the defense I dream about, ever since I got here," Nuggets coach Mike Malone said after Sunday's game. "I firmly believe in defense being the corner piece to being a championship-level team. We've preached it, talked about and haven't gotten it done. That's on me as a head coach. But the players deserve the credit."
Updated October 23, 2018