Here are three takeaways from the Kings’ 126-112 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night at Pepsi Center.
Kings can’t keep pace
The Kings were playing their third game in five nights on the final leg of a three-game trip that took them halfway across the country and back. It showed.
They looked lively in the opening minutes when Willie Cauley-Stein and Nemanja Bjelica both used some burst to get inside for easy baskets, but they couldn’t sustain the effort. The Kings managed to keep the game close through much of the first quarter, though it was already clear they were not playing with the same tempo they demonstrated while averaging 125.7 points over the first three games.
Sacramento went into the game averaging 94 field-goal attempts per contest. The Kings were leading the league in pace and ranked second in scoring.
This one felt different from the start.
The Kings attempted just 21 shots in the opening period and scored 26 points, their second-lowest scoring quarter of the season. They were held to 21 points in the second quarter in the season opener against the Utah Jazz.
Rookie Marvin Bagley III led the team with 20 points and nine rebounds.
Jackson gets into rhythm
The most encouraging performance of the night might have come from Justin Jackson, the second-year small forward who has endured his share of struggles early this season.
Jackson went into the game averaging 8.1 points in 26 minutes per game. He was shooting 40.9 percent from the field and just 12.5 percent from 3-point range.
Jackson looked much more confident against the Nuggets. He scored 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting and 3 of 5 from beyond the arc.
When the Nuggets were trying to pull away early in the third quarter, Jackson delivered the big shots to help the Kings keep it close for a period of time, making a longer jumper and two 3s.
Fatigue certainly appeared to be a factor for Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox and shooting guard Buddy Hield, two of the team’s top three scorers.
Fox was held to six points on 2-of-8 shooting with four assists and one rebound in 20 minutes. He went into the game averaging 20.3 points, 7.7 assists and 5 rebounds in 35.3 minutes per game.
Hield was held to five points on 2-of-7 shooting. He averaged 17.7 points over the first three games, shooting 55 percent from the field and a sizzling 50 percent from 3-point range.