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Kings-Nuggets Preview

AP - Sports

Though still short-handed, the Denver Nuggets appear to have moved past their recent struggles.

A matchup with the Sacramento Kings might help push those woes further into the rear-view mirror.

The Nuggets will try to record their fourth straight win overall and continue their mastery of the Kings on Monday night in Denver.

Before its current three-game win streak, Denver (21-17) had won only four times in its previous 16 games. The Nuggets have turned their fortunes around with balanced efforts. At least six Denver players have scored in double figures in each of the three wins, with Ty Lawson averaging 20.7 points and 11.7 assists to lead the way.

The point guard, who returned from a sprained left ankle at the beginning of the streak, had a team highs of 22 points and 11 assists in Sunday's 99-94 victory at San Antonio.

While Lawson is healthy again, the Nuggets' streak has come while leading scorer Danilo Gallinari (foot), starting big man Nene (calf) and reserve Rudy Fernandez (back) are all sidelined by injuries.

"It's huge. Huge for us," Lawson said. "Especially having three rotation players and two starters out. But we're starting to jell."

With 11 points in a little more than 15 minutes, Lawson was one of seven Nuggets to reach double figures in a 122-93 rout at Sacramento on Jan. 25. Three weeks earlier, the Nuggets drubbed the Kings 110-83 at the Pepsi Center.

Denver has six in a row at home over Sacramento (12-25) and four straight in the series overall. The Nuggets would appear to have a good chance to continue both of those streaks, as the Kings have dropped nine of their last 11 games overall and are 4-19 on the road this season.

They suffered their third straight defeat Sunday, losing 96-88 at Phoenix to fall to 0-2 on their current three-game trip. Sacramento scored 32 points in the first quarter but didn't produce more than 20 in any subsequent period and shot 33 percent in the second half.

While the offense struggled, Kings coach Keith Smart was generally pleased with his team's play at the other end of the floor.

"You're going to give up something," he said. "I thought our guys did a great job to maintain and do the things necessary, but we had a few breakdowns late."

Marcus Thornton, with 21 points, was one of the standouts for the Kings in the loss, and he's averaged 19.9 over his last 16 games. The swingman, who sat out the Jan. 25 home loss to Denver because of a bruised left thigh, has scored a combined 50 points in his last two visits to the Pepsi Center, including 23 in the Jan. 4 loss.

Nine Nuggets have scoring averages in double figures against the Kings this season, but those nine include all three injured players.

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