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Reply To: NBA • Friday Service Plays • 2/19/16

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Preview: Denver At Sacramento

When: 10:00 PM ET, Friday, February 19, 2016
Where: Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, California

The next 10 games will likely decide whether or not the Sacramento Kings remain in or fall out of the Western Conference playoff race. Sacramento begins the crucial stretch with consecutive games against Denver – beginning with Friday’s home contest – and follows up with home games against the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Kings recently decided not to fire coach George Karl but the upcoming slate is arduous with a four-game road trip following the game against Oklahoma City and a home game against the Cleveland Cavaliers to cap the 10-game stretch. Sacramento lost eight of its last 10 games preceding the All-Star break as Karl continues to have troubles reaching players such as All-Star post DeMarcus Cousins and mercurial point guard Rajon Rondo. Denver has won three of its past four games and is on the fringe of the playoff chase, though it typically isn’t viewed as having a chance to reach the postseason. The Nuggets play a home game against Boston between the two contests against the Kings – the rematch is Tuesday in Denver.

TV: 10 p.m. ET, Altitude (Denver), CSN California (Sacramento)

ABOUT THE NUGGETS (22-32): Leading scorer Danilo Gallinari (19.7 average) survived Thursday’s trading deadline as rumors flew that he was available despite the team saying he was not being shopped. One heavy dose of speculation had Gallinari, power forward Kenneth Faried, center Nikola Jokic and reserve swingman Will Barton being targeted by the Los Angeles Clippers in a package for power forward Blake Griffin and small forward Lance Stephenson. Denver’s lone trade was minor in nature as it sent shooting guard Randy Foye to the Oklahoma City Thunder for point guard D.J. Augustin, forward Steve Novak and two second-round picks.

ABOUT THE KINGS (22-31): Rondo leads the NBA with an 11.9 assists average, a figure that was last topped in a season by Hall of Famer John Stockton (12.3 in 1994-95). Rondo appears to be a shoo-in to win his third career assists title, and his 608 total assists have him on pace to break the franchise single-season mark held by Reggie Theus (788 in 1985-86). This season will mark the fifth time Rondo averages 10 or more assists per game, and he has 36 double-digit outings already this season, three off Theus’ club mark.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The teams split last season’s four meetings.

2. Nuggets PG Jameer Nelson (wrist) will likely miss his seventh straight contest.

3. Sacramento fired assistant coach Vance Walberg on Wednesday, a move general manager Vlade Divac termed “what is best for the team moving forward.”

PREDICTION: Kings 113, Nuggets 109