March 30, 2011
KINGS (21-52) vs.
Coverage begins at 6 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet California
DENVER (AP) -- The Sacramento Kings have won four straight games for the first time in nearly 16 months, the first three of which came at the end of a surprisingly successful road trip.
Considering their next stop, it seems awfully unlikely that streak will continue.
The surging Denver Nuggets look for a 10th consecutive victory at the Pepsi Center on Wednesday night in the opener of a home-and-home set with Sacramento, which can make it five wins in a row for the first time in more than four years.
As Denver (44-29) looks to maintain its hold on fifth place in the Western Conference - it's currently 1 12 games ahead of No. 6 Portland - a back-to-back series with Sacramento (21-52), at first look, has to seem awfully enticing.
But lately, the Kings have looked little like a team stuck in last place in the Pacific Division. Sacramento bounced back from a 132-92 loss at Chicago on March 21 by concluding its road trip with three straight wins, then shot 53.3 percent in a 116-113 victory over Phoenix on Tuesday.
REWIND: Kings stage inspired comeback against Suns
The recent return of Tyreke Evans, who had 11 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists Tuesday, has certainly played a part in the Kings' resurgence, but Marcus Thornton has been perhaps the biggest reason. He had 24 points against the Suns and has averaged 24.3 in his last six games.
"Things are coming together," coach Paul Westphal told NBA.com. "Since the trade for Marcus, our roster has been more balanced. As we get healthy and are able to sort things out, I think we are showing that there are a lot of reasons for optimism."
Sacramento hasn't won five straight since Jan. 31-Feb. 10, 2007, and it hasn't recorded four consecutive road victories since Dec. 11, 2004-Jan. 4, 2005.
Erasing those droughts Wednesday won't be easy. The Nuggets and Lakers are the only two teams who haven't lost at home since the All-Star break, but while Los Angeles has won nine straight at Staples Center by a fairly impressive 10.9 points per game, that pales in comparison to Denver's dominance.
The Nuggets won their final home game with Carmelo Anthony before the break by one point over Dallas. Since the trade, they've won their eight games at the Pepsi Center by an average of 20.4 points.
Four players with 17 points apiece - Danilo Gallinari, Ty Lawson, Chris Andersen and Al Harrington - led the way in the latest rout, 114-94 over Washington on Friday.
"We're approaching every game like it's a playoff game," point guard Raymond Felton told the Nuggets' official website. "We've got to prepare ourselves. We've got to get ready and stay focused."
One of the league's deepest teams could get a few more key contributors back Wednesday. Wilson Chandler, who sat out Friday with a lingering ankle injury, is probable, while guard Arron Afflalo, who's missed six of eight games with a strained hamstring, is a game-time decision.
Chandler averaged 11.0 points in two games versus Sacramento this season while with the Knicks, but scored a career-high 35 against the Kings on Feb. 9, 2010.
The teams, which wrap up their season series Friday at Power Balance Pavilion, have split their first two meetings, with each winning at home.
Evans had 27 points and a season-high 12 assists in Sacramento's 122-102 victory Jan. 6.