Kings Blog

Why the Kings say the Nuggets are now ‘where we want to be ... as we grow up’

The Kings' Buddy Hield and the Nuggets' Gary Harris each led their team in scoring Sunday.
The Kings' Buddy Hield and the Nuggets' Gary Harris each led their team in scoring Sunday. The Associated Press

Sometimes, a game comes down to something as simple as one team bullied the other.

That sums up what happened to the Kings on Sunday. The Denver Nuggets did whatever they wanted in a 130-104 trouncing.

"They were just too big, too fast, too strong, too physical," Kings coach Dave Joerger said. "And we might be littler, or lighter than guys, but they just faced us up in this one."

This is not a new problem for the Kings. There are many nights where they are too small, usually on the perimeter, and end up being manhandled by their opponent.

Still, even with the Kings playing a lot of young players as the season winds down, there has to be more fight and resistance.

The Nuggets (37-30) are a better team, but that doesn't mean the Kings (21-46) have to give up a ton of easy points. Sacramento allowed 62 points in the paint, 44 in the first half, and too often were caught watching as a Nugget drove by to score.

"It's just a lot of effort," guard De'Aaron Fox said. "At the end of the day it's not always schemes and things like that, sometimes it's just the effort that you give."

Fox didn't rule out general fatigue as a reason for the Kings' showing. It was a 3 p.m. start in Denver and playing at a higher altitude is a problem for most visiting teams at Pepsi Center.

Still, the ease in which Denver scored, shooting 56.2 percent and coming a point short of matching the most points the Kings have given up this season, is a problem.

"It happened at the beginning of the season and we picked it up after that," Fox said. "It happens. Sometimes you just don’t have it."

Nikola Jokic recorded his seventh triple-double of the season with 20 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Gary Harris led the Nuggets with 21 points, and Jamal Murray had 20 points and five assists.

Those players are young, too. Harris is in his fourth season, Jokic his third and Murray his second.

Denver is fighting for a playoff spot. The Kings are looking to next season.

"Obviously, they've come a long ways and a lot of their young guys are where we want to be in three or four years as we grow up," Joerger said. "I'm happy for them and wish them the best."

Buddy Hield led the Kings with 18 points. Kosta Koufos had 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Fox, in his first game back after sitting out Friday's win over Orlando because of as strained lower back, had 12 points and nine assists. Willie Cauley-Stein returned from missing four games with a lower back strain and finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.

Fox has dealt with various injuries, missing nine games during the regular season, but said he had no issues physically against Denver and that he's holding up fine as his rookie season nears its end.

"I feel like I’m fine," Fox said. "Little small things, nothing major. But just trying to finish the season out strong."

Cauley-Stein said his back "just locked up" after he played 35 minutes in a win over Brooklyn on March 1.

He said he felt "pretty good" against the Nuggets.

"The first five minutes this altitude burned my lungs a little bit, but after I got my second wind, I was good," Cauley-Stein said. "Body felt good, wasn’t really fatigued. Felt good, glad to be back out there."