SACRAMENTO, Calif. — For the Denver Nuggets, the objective is the same every night: Increase the throttle on a high-speed attack and don’t let up.
“We always want to push it in the early going, and then keep on pushing it,” guard Ty Lawson said after leading Denver’s high-octane attack to a 125-117 victory over the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Arena. “Keep on pushing it hard.”
Lawson scored a game-high 27 points, and the Nuggets started running from the opening tap and never let up in beating the Kings for the 10th time in their past 11 meetings. Denver converted 33 fast-break points, and Lawson led a backcourt that helped break down the Kings’ perimeter defense en route to scoring 58 points inside the key.
In doing so, the Nuggets proved they don’t necessarily need to be fresh to fly. Denver (22-21) played for the second time in two nights; they dispatched the Indiana Pacers 109-96 at home on Saturday.
“It’s great to follow up that one, and play like we did in this one,” said forward Wilson Chandler, who added 20 points. “We win that game against a great team and then come in here against a great offensive team that’s tough to beat. We wanted to compete and keep the tempo fast.”
Lawson didn’t start fast. He scored only seven points in the first half. But in the third quarter, he combined with forward Timofey Mogzov to score every Denver point during a 14-8 run that put the Nuggets ahead 89-86, a lead they never relinquished.
The fifth-year pro from North Carolina also added six assists on a night he shot 9-for-15 from the field and made his only 3-pointer. He has scored in double-digits in 21 straight games and has seen his name become a part of the All-Star Game conversation. NBA coaches will select the reserve to the game on Wednesday.
“That would be really exciting,” Lawson said. “Ever since I was 6 years old, I’ve wanted to be a part of the festivities and an All-Star Game.”
Guard Isaiah Thomas scored 22 points to lead the Kings, who played without their leading scorers, center DeMarcus Cousins and forward Rudy Gay, for the second consecutive game. Thomas made only seven of 21 shots but sank a 3-pointer for the 37th game in a row, the second-longest streak in Sacramento history. Thomas is two games shy of matching Mitch Richmond’s club mark set during the 1996-97 season.
Cousins (sprained left ankle) and Gay (left Achilles strain) combined to average 42 points a game since Gay’s acquisition from the Toronto Raptors in December. Coach Michael Malone said before the game that it was not decided whether the two would travel to Utah for Sacramento’s game Monday against the Jazz.
“I haven’t been worried about our offense once this year,” Kings coach Michael Malone said. “We’ve shown that we can score the ball no matter who we play. But (Denver) scored 58 points in the paint, they had 28 layups and 33 points in transition. You can’t do that to yourself.”
Guard Marcus Thornton scored 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting for the Kings (15-28). Thornton scored a combined 61 points in the past two games after totaling 33 in his previous nine contests.
Guard Ben McLemore scored 18 for Sacramento, his best contest since scoring 20 at Miami on Dec. 20.
For Denver, forward Kenneth Faried had 15 points and 11 rebounds as Denver won its second straight following a three-game skid.
The Kings used an 11-0 surge in the third quarter to take an 80-75 lead. But Lawson and Mozgov then scored Denver’s next 14 points. Mozgov made all five of his shots from the field for the Nuggets.
NOTES: Nuggets F Darrell Arthur missed his seventh straight game with a strained left hip. Arthur is day-to-day. … G Carl Landry played his fourth straight game since returning from a torn left hip flexor that kept him out of the first 39 contests for Sacramento. … The Nuggets were averaging 112.7 points per game in January, the best mark in the NBA. They have scored at least 100 in all 13 games they’ve played this month. … For the Kings, the contest was the first of five they’ll play over a seven-day stretch. They play 11 games in 18 days leading up to the All-Star break. … Kings F Jason Thompson (13 points, 10 rebounds) tallied his fifth double-double of the season.
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