Kings Under Review: Harrison Barnes' big game not enough to overcome Nuggets


Just off the mark. The Sacramento Kings blew a first half lead and couldn't come up with the big shot they needed to upset the high-powered Nuggets.

Paul Millsap hit the Kings hard in the post. Nikola Jokic stuffed the stat sheet. Malik Beasley put up numbers and Isaiah Thomas made a triumphant return to action after nearly a year away from the game.

It wasn't all bad for the Kings. Six players scored in double-figures, including a team-high 25 from Buddy Hield. They dished out 30 assists as a team and they had every opportunity to beat one of the best clubs in the NBA.

The loss dropped the Kings to three games over the .500 mark at 30-27 going into the All-Star break. Here are the positives and the negatives from the loss.


So Close

Sacramento led by 17 in the first half. Buddy Hield's last second shot caught iron. The loss dropped the Kings to ninth in the Western Conference.

The Kings have been playing on house money for a while. In one of the more shocking turns in recent NBA memory, a team that was supposed to win 25 games has 30 at the All-Star break and a fighting chance to snap a 12-year playoff drought.

Yes, the Kings lost to the Nuggets. But they went toe-to-toe at mile high altitude in a getaway game against one of the best teams in the Western Conference and it took everything Denver had to win the game.

The schedule is brutal coming out of the break, but this Kings team is in every game.


Barnes Fits In

Changing teams mid-season is never easy. For Harrison Barnes, he went from a ball-dominant offense in Dallas to an uptempo style in Sacramento where everyone gets an opportunity. You could see the wheels turning in Barnes' head in his first two games in a Kings uniform, which doesn't work when the pace is so frantic.

In his third game, you could see him fitting in and then standing out.

Although he struggled with his shot, Barnes dropped in 19 points on 7-of-19 shooting and 3-of-9 from long range. He hit the boards hard, grabbing a team-high 11 rebounds, chipped in four assists and picked up a pair of steals in 42 minutes of action.

Despite his lack of familiarity with his new team, coach Dave Joerger hasn't shied away from playing Barnes major minutes at both forward positions.


Trouble with the Joker

Jokic is an All-Star for a reason. He's dominated plenty of teams this season and the Kings were no different.

After battling some of the best bigs in the league of the last two weeks, Willie Cauley-Stein struggled with Jokic. He couldn't keep him off the glass and when the game was on the line, that proved to be the difference in the game.

With Cauley-Stein struggling to defend the 7-footer, coach Dave Joerger turned to seldom used big man Kosta Koufos. The plan worked for a six minute stretch in the fourth. Koufos held his opponent to 1-of-4 shooting over the stretch, although Jokic continued to dominate the glass.

Jokic picked up his 12th triple-double of the season, finishing the night with 20 points, 18 rebounds and 11 assists, including the game-winning tip-in with 0.8 remaining.

Cauley-Stein wasn't the only Kings big to struggle. Mason Plumlee got under the skin of Harry Giles and fouled the young big out in 12 minutes of action.


Trouble on the Glass

Rebounding has been an issue on plenty of nights for the Kings this season. The game winning tip by Jokic just highlighted a problem that was plaguing Sacramento throughout the evening.

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Jokic, Millsap and Plumlee all hit the glass hard for Denver, leading to a 53-44 advantage for the Nuggets.

The Kings played solid defense throughout the evening, but the possession ends with a defensive board. Denver grabbed 14 offensive rebounds, leading to a 24-10 advantage on second chance points. In a two point game, that was the difference between winning and losing.

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