SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – Danilo Gallinari celebrated a contract extension by scoring 21 of his 23 points in the first half and the Denver Nuggets routed the Sacramento Kings 122-93 on Wednesday night for their fifth straight victory and fifth in a row on the road.
Denver led by 23 points at the half and scored the first eight points of the third quarter. They have won five consecutive road wins for the first time since joining the NBA in 1976-77.
The Nuggets, who have the second-best record in the Western Conference at 13-5, signed Gallinari to a four-year, $42 million contract extension earlier in the day.
Nene had 16 points for Denver, 7-3 on the road. Andre Miller added 15 points and 10 assists, Corey Brewer also had 15 points, Ty Lawson 11, and Al Harrington 10.
Rookie Jimmer Fredette scored 19 points for the Kings, who never got the lead under 20 points in the second half. DeMarcus Cousins had 17 points and 15 rebounds, Isaiah Thomas scored 16 points, and Tyreke Evans had 12 and seven assists.
They had an NBA-high 92 points in the paint and only three of their first 41 baskets were outside that area. The Kings also allowed the previous points-in-the-paint high this season, giving up 72 in a Jan. 3 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
With Carmelo Anthony now playing with the New York Knicks, the Nuggets envision the 23-year-old Gallinari becoming the face of the franchise. And Gallinari responded by playing like an All-Star in the opening half.
He made 7 of 10 shots, hit all seven free throws, and blocked two shots in 21 minutes.
Denver shot nearly 60 percent and had its running game on display in assuming a 66-43 halftime lead. The Nuggets scored off the break and got numerous easy opportunities inside, their 46 points in the paint more than the Kings had overall.
Ahead by six points after one quarter, the Nuggets outscored Sacramento 34-17 in the second. Denver bothered the youthful Kings at the defensive end and capitalized at the other end. Gallinari scored 14 points and Harrington had eight in the quarter.
Despite the big halftime lead, the Nuggets experienced no letdown in the third quarter. The lead reached in the third when Denver continued its torrid shooting and outscored sluggish Sacramento 28-22.
Earlier in the day, the Kings announced that leading scorer Marcus Thornton is expected to miss one or two weeks with a deep bruise in his left thigh. Thornton, who is averaging 16.4 points, was replaced in the starting lineup by Fredette.
The struggling Kings, who are the NBA’s youngest team, were coming off a pair of road losses, including a humbling 128-95 loss on Saturday to Memphis. The Kings are 4-8 under Keith Smart, who replaced fired Paul Westphal seven games into the season.
NOTES: The Nuggets also signed backup center Kosta Koufos to a three-year, $9 million contract extension. Kings forward Chuck Hayes, who has missed 11 straight games with a dislocated left shoulder, might return to the active roster Saturday against Utah. Denver played its second straight game without starting guard Arron Afflalo, who is out with a right groin injury. … Mild-mannered and sitting on the bench for much of the first half, Nuggets coach George Karl still managed to pick up a technical foul late in the second quarter with his team ahead by 21 points.
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