The Denver Nuggets had a chance to pick up an easy road win against one of the league’s worst teams in the Sacramento Kings on Saturday night. Instead, Denver literally handed them the game with a season-high 26 turnovers in a 106-98 loss.
The Nuggets looked the way you’d expect from a team on the second night of its seventh back-to-back: tired and sloppy. The starting unit was bricking shots, conceding offensive rebounds and could not stop turning the ball over. Before the game clock had reached 7:00 minutes the Nuggets had turned it over four times—three of those coming from Wilson Chandler alone.
With nothing doing for the starters, the Nuggets were in dire need of some inspired play off the bench. Trey Lyles answered the call once again. The 22-year-old entered the game with just over five minutes remaining in the quarter and dropped 8 quick points on 3-3 shooting from the field. Lyles’ offense helped engineer a strong run to close the quarter and keep the Nuggets in the game. Somehow, even after coughing up 10 turnovers and handing the kings 13 points off of those turnovers, Denver trailed by just two after the first.
The second quarter featured some of the ugliest basketball that this Nuggets’ season has had to offer. Denver — who entered the game scoring just over 110 points per 100 possessions — managed just 14 points in the quarter. They turned it over five more times and, by every account, deserved to find themselves in a major hole; but they were playing the Kings. Sacramento failed to take advantage of the Nuggets’ poor start and posted just 17 points of their own thanks to a miserable shooting performance for the second-straight quarter.
The two former Wildcats — De’Aaron Fox and Willie Cauley-Stein — posted 22 first-half points on a combined 8-11 from the field, but no one else could buy a bucket. The Kings shot just 36.7 percent from the field overall. Despite holding a 15-4 advantage in turnovers, and a 20-7 advantage in points off of turnovers, Sacramento only led 46-41 at the half.
The big takeaway from the first half was simple: if Denver could just cut back on turnovers, they’d be in a position to win this game. They failed to do so in the second half. On the very first possession of the third quarter, Murray threw it away. It was stolen by Cauley-Stein who threw it down for a dunk.
The Nuggets would go on to turn it over fives more times and the Kings began to find their stroke, particularly Buddy Hield, who scored nine points in the quarter. The lowest-rated offense in the league dropped 33 points in the frame as the Kings extended their lead to eight points headed into the fourth quarter.
The Kings opened the fourth on a quick 5-0 run and Denver head coach Micahel Malone used a timeout before sixty seconds had ticked off of the clock. That is when Will Barton got hot. Barton scored eight straight for Denver and Jamal Murray followed that up with two threes of his own to help cut the Kings’ lead down to three points with five minutes remaining. Unfortunately, the turnovers persisted and the Kings would ultimately pull away.
Fox led the way for Sacramento in what was perhaps the best game of his young career. He finished with 18 points and 11 assists. Lyles was the high-man for Denver, finishing with 19 points on 8-11 shooting.
Following the loss, the Nuggets fall to 21-18 on the year and 7-14 on the road. Denver will have Sunday off as they travel to Oakland for a Monday night matchup with the Golden State Warriors. The Game tips off at 8:30 MT.