DENVER (The Sports Xchange) – After the Kings lost a heartbreaker Sunday, the Nuggets made sure their game against Sacramento on Monday was decisive — even with Denver missing its best player.
Wilson Chandler scored a career-high 36 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, Danilo Gallinari had 18 points, and the Nuggets beat the Kings 108-96 on Monday night.
Mason Plumlee added 10 points and 12 rebounds, and Gary Harris scored 15 for Denver, which overcame the absence of center Nikola Jokic to end a five-game skid against Sacramento.
The Nuggets (29-34) now lead the Kings (25-38) by four games for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference with 19 games left. Denver is two games up on the Portland Trail Blazers, who had their scheduled contest in Minnesota postponed due to condensation on the court, and 2 1/2 games up on the idle Dallas Mavericks.
“We talk about it every now and then, not too much,” Chandler said of the race for the playoffs. “I pay attention a lot.”
Darren Collison led the Kings with 17 points, and Kosta Koufos amassed 14 points and 10 rebounds. Buddy Hield had 14 points off the bench.
It was the fifth straight loss for the Kings, but it was not as dramatic as their Sunday setback at home to Utah. Sacramento thought it had won that one in overtime when an official ruled Rudy Gobert’s tip was a goaltend, but the basket was allowed after a review.
The extra five minutes and energy used in the Sunday defeat impacted the Kings on Monday.
“It’s always tough to find your pace and rhythm,” Collison said. “Still, no excuses. We didn’t do some things well we did in the previous game. I don’t think fatigue had a lot to do with it. We have to find a way to be mentally tougher.”
Jokic was sent home from the morning shootaround because of an illness. He came back to the arena a couple of hours before tipoff to receive treatment and fluids but wasn’t well enough to suit up.
Plumlee got the start and provided some toughness in the middle despite committing six turnovers.
“That’s one of the reasons we got Mason,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “Mason is a guy that can play alongside Nikola and also back him up.”
Chandler provided a chunk of the offense early in Jokic’s absence while playing a season-high 43 minutes. He scored 16 of Denver’s 25 points in the first quarter and then added 10 in the third when the Nuggets built a 17-point lead.
“Wilson Chandler was fantastic tonight,” Sacramento coach Dave Joerger said. “He started right off the jump, got going and was really feeling good.”
The advantage grew to 21 early in the fourth quarter, and the only drama left was if Chandler would set a career high. After six straight misses, he drained a 3-pointer with 32 seconds left to reach 36 points.
“He was phenomenal tonight,” Malone said. “I wasn’t aware it was a career high, but I knew he had a special night. Hopefully he can keep that going for us.”
The Kings are still adjusting to their new roster after sending DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans on Feb. 19. It has been a struggle, but it won’t get easier with a game at San Antonio on Wednesday and back-to-back home games against Washington and Denver on Friday and Saturday.
“It’s been tough, just trying to get used to each other,” said Kings guard Ty Lawson, who scored 13 points. “This is five games we’ve lost in a row? We’ve got to get another one soon.”
NOTES: Denver F Kenneth Faried missed his fifth consecutive game due to lower back spasms, but he is improving. “The spasms have greatly reduced, but he’s in no shape to play,” coach Michael Malone said. … Sacramento coach Dave Joerger was still feeling the sting of the last-second loss to Utah on Sunday. “I told the guys after the game, Utah has the better record but I felt like we deserved to win,” Joerger said. “We had the better team (Sunday) night. People make mistakes, but those are three of the better officials in the league.” … The Nuggets recalled F Malik Beasley from Sioux Falls of the NBA Development League, but he didn’t see action Monday.