Nuggets-Kings Preview


Despite lacking a true superstar, the Denver Nuggets own one of the NBA's best records.

The team without a go-to scorer is also in position to accomplish something that's never been done in the franchise's 36-year history in the league.

The Nuggets look to complete a perfect five-game road trip for the first time Wednesday night when they meet the Sacramento Kings, who are coming off a pair of lopsided defeats and will be without leading scorer Marcus Thornton.

Denver (12-5) is in second place in the Western Conference and has won six of seven, with the last four victories coming on the trip that started with last Tuesday's 105-95 win over Milwaukee.

The Nuggets have since picked up victories in Philadelphia, Washington and New York, and they have the opportunity to finish undefeated on a trip of at least five games for the first time since joining the NBA in 1976-77.

The last three wins haven't come easy, though. Denver went to overtime against the 76ers, beat the NBA-worst Wizards by four points and needed two overtimes to outlast the Knicks.

Danilo Gallinari had a career-high 37 points against his former team in Saturday's 119-114 win at Madison Square Garden, and Al Harrington scored 22 of his 24 points after halftime.

"The New York game was just a mental toughness fight of trying to figure out how to win that game," coach George Karl told the Nuggets' official website. "I still don't know exactly how we did it. Our fortitude to stay involved in the game was pretty incredible stuff.

"There's a good feel right now. The big thing is not to get too happy and give something back like a game in Sacramento, where if we play the right way, we have a good chance of winning."

The Nuggets have won five of six over the Kings, but only one of those victories came in Sacramento. They've lost four of five at Power Balance Pavilion.

Denver had no trouble with the Kings at home Jan. 4, winning 110-83. The Nuggets showed off their great depth, finishing with a season-high 62 bench points as each of their 12 players scored at least six.

Denver is one of the league's highest-scoring teams at 105.5 points per game and has six players averaging in double digits. Gallinari is averaging a team-best 17.4 points but has been the Nuggets' leading scorer only eight times.

"Hopefully people are realizing we've got a lot of skill and a lot of talent," Karl said. "Everybody wants to say we don't have a star. You don't know who our star's going to be on that night. It can be one of four or five guys."

The Kings (6-12) similarly don't have a proven star, but they also don't have the same depth. Thornton, averaging 16.4 points, has missed four games with a deep thigh bruise and will be sidelined one to two weeks because of the injury.

Rookie guard Jimmer Fredette is expected to see his minutes increase in Thornton's absence.

Tyreke Evans, second on the team with 16.1 points per game, shot 2 for 10 and scored nine points in a 101-89 loss to Portland on Monday.

The Kings, who suffered a 33-point loss in Memphis on Saturday, trailed 33-31 midway through the second quarter Monday before the Trail Blazers went on a 13-0 run to put the game out of reach.

"The second quarter got away from us toward the end," said coach Keith Smart, who is 4-7 since taking over for Paul Westphal. "It only takes a couple of moments."

Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, who had 18 points and 13 rebounds Monday, scored a season-best 26 in Denver earlier this month. He helped carry the offense after Evans left midway through the game with an illness.