SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The final, insignificant moments of a blowout that had been decided before halftime were not so insignificant after all: coach Keith Smart played two Kings starters, Jason Thompson and Jimmer Fredette, all 12 minutes in the fourth quarter of the fourth game in six nights, and two others from the opening lineup, Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins, eight and seven minutes, respectively. They made “the mess,” as Smart called it, so they could stay around to clean it up.
“I want them to understand,” Smart said. “You can’t escape this…. You can’t go hide on the bench.”
It was so bad Wednesday night at Power Balance Pavilion, staying in the game was a punishment. It was so bad, it was as historic as could be proven.
The Nuggets scored 92 points in the paint alone – ninety-two! – as part of embarrassing the Kings 122-93, the most in the league this season by 20 and the most, period, since the statistic began being kept in 2000-01. Denver made four baskets outside the paint, according to Sacramento tracking, a pair of three-pointers and a pair of twos.
It’s not like the Nuggets have an overpowering interior presence either. Kosta Koufas opened at center, alongside Nene. The usual starter, Timofey Mozgov, was with his wife for the birth of their son. Also, two key Denver wings, Arron Afflalo and Rudy Fernandez, did not play because of injury, and Ty Lawson logged just 15 minutes before getting hurt.
The Kings offered no resistance to perimeter players getting into the lane or to power players. The worst indictment? They made such a little effort to stop anything that for all the time the Nuggets spent in the paint with the ball, Denver shot just 25 free throws.
The Kings couldn’t be bothered with trying to distract them.
What a mess.