Nocioni leads Kings over Nuggets, 106-101
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP)—The revamped Sacramento Kings won only 11 home games a year ago in posting the worst record in the NBA.
Win No. 11 this year at home was a special one, 106-101 over the struggling Denver Nuggets on Monday night. It comes after the youthful Kings lost back-to-back games in overtime at home to Cleveland and the Lakers.
With standout rookie Tyreke Evans(notes) nursing a sore ankle in street clothes, the Kings produced another strong effort against an elite team, defeating the Northwest Division-leading Nuggets and improving to 11-5 at home.
“This team has a lot of personality and plays with confidence and energy,” Nocioni said. “We lost two tough games to Cleveland and the Lakers, but we still came here ready to play tonight.”
But getting the victory was far from easy. The Nuggets came out strong early and had an 11-point lead in running by the Kings for much of the first quarter. But the hustling Kings held the Nuggets to 38 points in the middle two quarters and maintained their poise in the fourth for the victory.
“Losing is extremely frustrating,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “You don’t like to lose, but Sacramento is playing at a good level and we are not playing at a great level. I told the team the best they have going is that we have three days off practice.”
Rookie Omri Casspi(notes) made a 3-pointer from the corner to put the Kings ahead for good at 97-96. Following a missed shot by Carmelo Anthony(notes), Beno Udrih(notes) converted on a fastbreak for a three-point play to give Sacramento a 100-96 lead with 1:41 remaining.
Nocioni had shot 1 for 17 and scored 10 points in the previous four games. Coming off the bench against Denver, he made a 3-pointer on his first shot and was 6 of 7 overall in 25 minutes. Nocioni added six rebounds, two assists and a block.
“It helped a lot making that first shot,” Nocioni said. “Sometimes you struggle with your shooting, so when you make that first one it feels really good.”
What also felt good afterward for the Kings was making Anthony earn his 34 points. The NBA’s leading scorer this season, Anthony shot 15 of 35 and was 3 of 7 on free throws. He had eight fourth-quarter points, but with Greene in his face late in the game, he missed two straight jumpers.
“We told him (Donte) if Carmelo doesn’t get 40, we’ve got a chance,” Kings coach Paul Westphal joked. “I thought Donte really took the challenge and made it tough on Carmelo. He didn’t give him a whole bunch of free throws and made him earn his points, which is all you can do with superstars.”
Nene had a season-high 25 points for the Nuggets, who lost their third straight and fifth in six games. Kenyon Martin(notes) added 10 points and 12 rebounds. The Nuggets made just 20 of 35 free throws and shot 41 percent overall.
The Nuggets are a different team on the road, where they have dropped six straight. They came into the game averaging just over 100 points in road games while averaging 114 in Denver, where they are 13-2.
“At the end of the day we’re going to have to get a win on the road,” Aaron Afflalo said. “We need some more practice time to regain our focus on whatever it may be at the end of the day we have to do to get a win.”
Driving to the basket, Nocioni drew a fifth foul on Anthony with 7:58 remaining. Nocioni made both free throws and a short time later hit a 3-pointer from the corner, putting the Kings ahead 90-84.
It didn’t help that Denver was also missing its point guard. Chauncey Billups(notes) is nursing a strained left groin that he originally injured Dec. 16. He sat out three straight games, then played only the first half Christmas Day at Portland when he reaggravated the injury.
Nocioni made a late 3-pointer for the Kings, who trailed most of the third quarter but finished strong to take a 75-70 lead into the fourth.
Anthony was aggressive from the start, taking 15 shots in the game’s first 17 minutes. He scored 19 first-half points in helping the Nuggets to a 48-47 lead. Nocioni scored 11 points for the Kings.
NOTES: Geoff Petrie has agreed to a contact extension to remain president of basketball operations for the Sacramento Kings. The team has called a news conference for Tuesday to announce the deal. … Sacramento reserves outscored the Nuggets 20-4 in the opening half. With the shot clock nearing zero early in the third quarter, Anthony threw up a long 3-pointer that went in. He shrugged his shoulders and laughed heading downcourt after the shot.