Big second half fuels short-handed Nuggets in win over Kings

Winning a road game on the second night of a back-to-back is not an easy task in the NBA — even against a less-than-stellar opponent such as the Sacramento Kings. Doing it without your head coach and two of your starters? That only complicates things further.

The Denver Nuggets were missing head coach Michael Malone, small forward Wilson Chandler and power forward Paul Millsap on Monday. Malone was serving a one-game suspension for bumping into an official Sunday. Chandler and Millsap were dealing with back and wrist injuries.

It was ugly in the early going, but the Nuggets eventually overcame their absences to earn a 114-98 win over the Kings in Sacramento.

The Nuggets went into the halftime break tied with Sacramento, 47-47. They were struggling to produce on the offensive end. Their turnovers issues — they had 11 in the first half — persisted.

But when the third quarter started, Denver finally woke up. It outscored Sacramento 34-23 in the third quarter then 33-28 in the fourth quarter.

Will Barton, Gary Harris and Nikola Jokic led the way. Barton scored a team-high 25 points. He made 9 of 15 shots, including 5 of 6 three-pointers, to go along with six rebounds and five assists. Harris had a similarly efficient night as he scored 20 points on 13 shots. Jokic had 16 points, 14 rebounds, three assists and was a plus-24 in 35 minutes.

Those three did the heavy lifting, but there were other bright spots. Jamal Murray was plagued by foul trouble in the first half. However, the second-year guard came on strong with 14 second-half points. In the fourth quarter, Murray hooked up with Jokic for the rare center-to-point-guard alley oop.

Juancho Hernangomez (11 points, 4 of 9 shooting) and Trey Lyles (8 points, 3 of 7 shooting) also provided solid contributions on a night when Denver was short-handed. They each made two three-pointers. As a team, Denver sunk 15 of 32 shots from behind the arc.

Denver snapped a three-game road losing streak with the win. It next plays against the Rockets on Wednesday in Houston.

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