DENVER (AP) – Wilson Chandler scored a career-high 36 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, helping the Denver Nuggets weather the absence of Nikola Jokic to beat the Sacramento Kings 108-96 on Monday night.
The Nuggets snapped a five-game skid against Sacramento and remained entrenched in the Western Conference’s final playoff spot.
Jokic was a late scratch because of an illness. With him went 15.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists. Mason Plumlee stepped in and posted Jokic-like numbers – 10 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.
Darren Collison led seven Kings players in doubles figures with 17 points as they dropped their fifth straight. The team was coming off a tough loss the night before when Utah’s Rudy Gobert tipped in a missed jumper as time expired in overtime on a play that was initially ruled goaltending.
Chandler got off to a torrid start, scoring 16 points in the first quarter. He was stuck on 33 points for quite a while, but eclipsed his career best on a late 3-pointer. His previous high was 35 on three occasions, most recently at Chicago on March 18, 2013.
The Nuggets led by as many as 21 points on Jamal Murray’s jumper with 9:41 remaining before going cold. The Kings pulled within nine on a dunk by Skal Labissiere with around 1:25 left, but couldn’t get any closer.
Before the game, Sacramento coach Dave Joerger described Jokic as a lot like Marc Gasol, the versatile center he coached in Memphis. Joerger quickly added that if Jokic isn’t “feeling good and doesn’t play, that does not hurt my feelings.”
The sentiment is understandable: Jokic has four triple-doubles in his last 14 games.
Kings: Sacramento falls to 4-10 on the second night of a back-to-back. …The Kings had three former Nuggets on the floor: Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo and Kosta Koufos, who combined for 29 points. … Willie Cauley-Stein fouled out with 3:06 remaining. He scored 10 points.
Nuggets: The spasms in F Kenneth Faried’s back have “greatly reduced,” coach Michael Malone said. “He’s still in no shape to play. Getting closer, but where that puts him and how many games out that puts him, I’m not sure.” … Denver finished with 28 assists. … F Danilo Gallinari had 18 points.
JUST ANOTHER GAME
Malone tried to maintain that playing Sacramento was simply another game on the schedule. He spent two seasons as coach of the Kings before being dismissed. He was 0 for 5 against the Kings heading into Monday.
“We haven’t beaten them since I got here. That’s in the back of my mind,” Malone said before the game. “It would be nice to beat them one time, but not because they let me go, just because we have (19) games to go and we want to be a playoff team.”
Kings: Finish off a two-game trip Wednesday in San Antonio.
Nuggets: Host John Wall and the Washington Wizards on Wednesday.
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