SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – Even with a new coach, the Denver Nuggets still love to push the basketball.
That’s exactly what they did best Sunday night against short-handed Sacramento.
Following an emotional home win over Indiana on Saturday and a late-night flight to Sacramento, the Nuggets played the up-tempo game that was encouraged for years by George Karl and has continued under rookie coach Brian Shaw.
Denver shot nearly 52 percent, made 10 3-pointers and bothered the Kings enough at the defensive end to force 16 turnovers – many of them contributing to Denver’s 33 fast-break points. It was a season high allowed by the Kings, who have had trouble all season slowing down opponents.
The Nuggets are 12-2 this season when scoring at least 110 points.
“We come out and run and play with energy, that’s our game,” Lawson said. “If we don’t do that, we’re not going to win many games.”
It was the second consecutive victory for the Nuggets, who went ahead late in the third quarter and never trailed again. Denver was coming off a 109-96 victory over the Pacers, who have the best record in the NBA.
The Nuggets (22-21) now return home for games against Charlotte, Toronto, the Los Angeles Clippers and Milwaukee.
“It’s the first time this year we have followed up a good win with another one,” Shaw said. “If we take care of business at home we can really build some momentum.”
The Kings, who have dropped three straight and five of six, played their second consecutive game without leading scorers DeMarcus Cousins (ankle sprain) and Rudy Gay (Achilles strain). The two combine for nearly 43 points per game and are day to day.
Chandler scored seven points in the fourth quarter and Kenneth Faried finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Nuggets. Timofey Mozgov added 14 points, while Nate Robinson and Randy Foye had 12 apiece.
“We’re starting to come around as a team,” said Chandler, who made three 3-pointers and added five of Denver’s 28 assists. “We’re getting used to each other. We have 10 or 11 guys who can play and we don’t lose a thing, no matter who is on the court.”
Isaiah Thomas had 22 points and eight assists for Sacramento, and Marcus Thornton scored 19. Ben McLemore added 18 points, Jason Thompson had 13 points and 10 rebounds, and Derrick Williams scored 12.
“We never got defensive in the game tonight,” Kings coach Michael Malone said. “Both teams shot the ball the exact same field goal percentage (51.9 percent). We were not going to outscore that team. We put up 117 points and yet everyone is worried about Rudy Gay and DeMarcus being out. I haven’t been worried about our offense once this year.”
Denver didn’t have a field goal in the final 3:30 of the game, but stayed on top thanks to its foul shooting. The Nuggets made 14 of 19 free throws down the stretch, most of them in the final 3 minutes.
A pair of free throws by J.J. Hickson gave Denver a seven-point lead. Robinson made one of two attempts at the line with 1:02 left, putting the Nuggets up 119-113. Lawson hit two free throws and Chandler made four straight, increasing the lead to 10.
“We just couldn’t get any consecutive stops in the fourth quarter,” McLemore said. “We would get a stop here, but not consecutively. What happened was that we turned the ball over too much tonight. That’s what allowed them to score 125 points and 58 points in the paint. It was us not defending and turnovers.”
Leading by two points, the Nuggets opened the fourth quarter with a surge, taking a 111-102 lead on a 3-pointer by Robinson. But Denver went scoreless for more than 3 minutes before Lawson scored for a
Lawson gave the Kings all sorts of trouble in the third quarter, scoring 12 points to help Denver take a 95-94 lead into the fourth. Thornton scored 10 for the Kings.
The Nuggets ran off eight unanswered points to open an eight-point lead in the third. But the Kings countered with a 15-2 run, including seven points from Thomas and six from Thornton, to pull ahead 80-75 at the 4:36 mark.
Foye had 12 first-half points and Lawson 11 for Denver, which led 65-59 at halftime. McLemore scored 10 off the bench for the Kings, who had 12 turnovers that led to 20 points.
NOTES: Thomas made a 3-pointer midway through the third quarter to extend his streak to 37 games, the second-most in franchise history. Mitch Richmond holds the team record with 39 consecutive games with a 3 during the 1996-97 season. … In a fast-paced opening half, the Kings shot 59.5 percent and Denver was at 54.5 percent. … Denver made 31 of 40 free throws.
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