Domantas Sabonis and Nikola Jokic go head-to-head with leadership of the NBA’s triple-double race at stake when the Sacramento Kings host the Denver Nuggets on Friday night.
Jokic had a triple-double with 36 points, 13 rebounds and 14 assists when the Nuggets lost 123-117 at Sacramento on Dec. 2 in the clubs’ only previous meeting this season.
Sabonis countered with 17 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists in the win.
The Kings prevailed mostly thanks to a 48-18 scoring advantage from beyond the 3-point arc and a 45-22 dominance in bench points. Malik Monk outscored the entire Denver reserve crew by himself with 26 points.
The Nuggets were without Jamal Murray in that meeting. He had 29 points, Michael Porter Jr. scored 27 and Jokic added 24 as Denver won 114-106 on the road against the Los Angeles Lakers on the front half of a back-to-back Thursday night.
Jokic, who grabbed 13 boards, missed a triple-double by one assist, leaving him with 15 for the season and in a tie with Sabonis for the NBA lead. The double-double was Jokic’s 43rd, three fewer than Sabonis’ league-best total.
The big men have each logged two triple-doubles in their career matchups.
Sabonis missed a triple-double by three assists when the Kings were shocked 133-120 by the visiting Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night. His 33rd straight double-double consisted of 30 points and 12 rebounds.
Monk had 23 points and fellow reserve Trey Lyles put up 19, but Sacramento was let down by Sabonis’ supporting cast among the starters. Kevin Huerter (16), De’Aaron Fox (12), Harrison Barnes (eight) and Keegan Murray (zero) combined for just 36 points.
In a tight battle for fifth place in the Western Conference, the Kings had hoped a just-completed 5-2 trip would lead to two home wins before they play three more on the road. Now they must beat the Nuggets just to split the pair.
Sacramento coach Mike Brown would like to believe his team will come out against the defending champions with a greater level of intensity than it did against the Pistons.
On the other hand, the Nuggets are hoping they didn’t leave too much on the floor in a 48-minute battle in Los Angeles on Thursday. Murray credited the club’s four-man reserve crew with making things at least a little bit easier on the starters with a 21-point, 17-rebound contribution.