Kings shooting for season sweep of defending champ Nuggets

The Sacramento Kings are coming off a disappointing home loss to a short-handed Miami Heat team, but things might be looking up for the Kings.Sacramento's next game is in Denver against the Nuggets

Kings shooting for season sweep of defending champ Nuggets

The Sacramento Kings are coming off a disappointing home loss to a short-handed Miami Heat team, but things might be looking up for the Kings.

Sacramento’s next game is in Denver against the Nuggets. Though it seems daunting to play the reigning champions on their home court — or anywhere — it hasn’t been a problem for the Kings.

Sacramento has won the first three games against Denver this season and has a chance to sweep the season series when the teams meet Wednesday night.

This will be the teams’ third meeting in 19 days, and the first two were frustrating in different ways for the Nuggets. They were blown out by 29 in Sacramento on Feb. 9, and then coughed up a 16-point lead on Valentine’s Day to lose by four. Denver was without two starters in each game, but should have a full lineup for Wednesday.

That will be a test for the young Kings, but the confidence from their success against the Nuggets should help.

It’s also a plus to have Domantas Sabonis, a player similar to the Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic, who has won two regular-season MVPs and a finals MVP. Sabonis has an NBA-best 21 triple-doubles this season but has plenty of help with De’Aaron Fox, who scorched Denver for 30 points in the last matchup.

Fox is averaging 26.9 points per game this season, but his defense sometimes gets overshadowed, and it’s something he takes pride in.

“I know for me to be the player I want to be and my coaches think I can be, and for us to be the team we want to be, it starts on the defensive end,” Fox said. “I want to be one of those guys who can get it done on the offensive end and also do those types of things on the defensive end.”

Defense has been the key to the Nuggets’ recent success. They have won three straight since their most recent loss to Sacramento, including an impressive win at Golden State on Sunday night.

Jokic had his third straight triple-double, putting up 32 points, 16 rebounds and 16 assists. According to the team, Jokic is the first player in NBA history to record three straight triple-doubles with at least 14 rebounds and 14 assists.

But, like Fox, an overlooked aspect of Jokic’s game is his play on the defensive end. He had four steals against the Warriors and has consistently deflected passes through the paint this season.

The defense is a focus for Denver coach Michael Malone, who has been disappointed with that aspect against Sacramento.

“They have so many weapons offensively, and you have to take something away,” Malone said after practice on Wednesday. “We’ve given up transition, we’ve given up the paint and we’ve given up the 3-point line. You’re not going to beat a team when you’re giving up scoring at every level possible.”

Having Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the team’s best perimeter defender, in the lineup will be a plus. He missed the last two games against the Kings with a right hamstring injury but is playing despite a finger sprain.

Caldwell-Pope harassed Stephen Curry into a subpar shooting night on Sunday and could present the same problem for Fox.