The Nuggets face Sacramento tonight in the home opener at Pepsi Center on a special night – Legends Night. The Nuggets greatest players and and the franchises all-time winningest coach will be in attendance, and the team wants to put on a good show in front of what should be an electric crowd.
“The players are really excited to have our season opener at home,” coach Michael Malone said. “Start the season off and get our first win, and hopefully put on a special performance for the legends that will be in the building tonight because of all of the things they’ve done for this organization over many, many years.”
So how do the Nuggets get a win? Here are some keys to the game.
Stay on Fox’s left hand. Sacramento features one of the more exciting rookies this season in point guard De’Aaron Fox. He’s coming off a 10-assist game as a reserve in the Kings’ win at Dallas on Friday night. He’s a fast and athletic guard, and can relentlessly attack the rim if he’s allowed. And he’ll do that dribbling mainly with his left hand. Nuggets defenders should shade his left to force him right as much as possible. Now, Fox can get to his right hand in a pinch, but at this point in his career he’s heavy with his left. If the Nuggets let him operate going left all night long, chances are he’ll have a big night.
Be mindful of the midrange. It’s just two games, but the Kings lead the league in percentage of points scored from midrange shots. They get 20.7 percent of their points from there, and, at this point, it’s not by accident. According to NBA stats, the Kings averaged just 25.1 drives per game in the first two, as compared to the Nuggets who are in the league’s top six with 30.1 drives per game. There will be a ton of pressure on the Nuggets pick-and-roll defense to stay in contact with a bevy of Kings that can knock down jumpers. George Hill gets right to the elbow and is pretty much automatic from there. De’Aaron Fox is decent from that range as well.
Cut unforced errors. The Nuggets had 22 turnovers in the loss to Utah on Wednesday night. Five of those turnovers were traveling calls. Cut all five of those out and the team starts to get closer to a turnover number that is more acceptable. There are enough plays in a game where defenses will apply enough pressure to force a turnover. If the Nuggets can limit their miscues to those instances only, they’ll get that number down considerably.
Get over the screens on George Hill. George Hill is one of the most underrated point guards in the NBA, and one of the craftiest. He is a deft jump shooter, and reads defenses with ease. If defenders go under screens, he’ll just pull up and hit the shot from behind the screen. And he’ll live on that all night long, if he’s allowed to. The Nuggets have to be diligent about getting over every screen and pushing Hill toward the defensive help on the other side.
INJURY REPORT. The Nuggets have no reported injuries, and will be at full strength tonight.
Christopher Dempsey: firstname.lastname@example.org and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.