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Can Kings pull of upset against Nuggets in Denver?

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USATSI

Can Kings pull of upset against Nuggets in Denver?

The Sacramento Kings begin another rough scheduling stretch, playing five games in seven nights against five teams fighting for playoff position in three different time zones. They’ll begin the barrage of games Sunday afternoon at the Pepsi Center against the Denver Nuggets.

Sacramento picked up their 21st win of the season Friday evening at Golden 1 Center against the Orlando Magic. Garrett Temple led the way with 23 points and Kosta Koufos posted a big 18-point, 13-rebounds double-double.

Denver is in a dogfight in the Western Conference playoff chase. They are currently tied with the Utah Jazz for the ninth spot in the standings and they trail the Los Angeles Clippers by just a game for the eight seed with 16 games remaining on the schedule.

BETTING LINE 

Denver by 11.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Bogdan Bogdanovic vs. Gary Harris -- Bogdanovic is in a mini shooting slump over his last two games, but he finds ways to help his team. Against the Magic on Friday night, he posted a career-best 10 assists to go with eight points. Harris is having a breakout season in his fourth year in the league. He averages 17.8 points on 40.7 percent shooting from long range in 35 minutes per game for head coach Michael Malone.

WHERE THEY STAND 

Kings: 21-45, fourth place in Pacific

Nuggets: 36-30, fourth place in Northwest

INJURY REPORT 

Kings: PG De’Aaron Fox (lower back strain) questionable, C Willie Cauley-Stein (lower back) questionable, PF Skal Labissiere (bruised left hip) out, SG/SF Iman Shumpert (knee rehab/plantar fasciitis) out, PF Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) out for the season. 

Nuggets: SF Wilson Chandler (right hip) probable.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

Playoff Intensity -- The Kings don’t have anything but pride to play for in the final 16 games of the season, but every game matters for the Nuggets. Denver plays five of their next six contests against non-playoff teams as they try to fight their way back into the postseason picture. 

Walking Wounded -- Sacramento’s injury report is long and includes plenty of the young players that Dave Joerger was hoping to turn to down the stretch. Labissiere won’t play after taking a major spill against Orlando. Fox and Cauley-Stein will be game time decisions. 

Hit the Defensive Glass -- Denver ranks second in the league in offensive rebounds at 11.1 boards per game. The Kings need to get a body on the Nuggets bigs and finish off the defensive possession with a rebound. Sacramento ranks last in the league in defensive rebounds, so it could be a long afternoon.

SERIES HISTORY 

Denver leads the season series 2-1, but the Kings own a one game win streak after knocking off the Nuggets at Golden 1 Center in early January. The Nuggets hold a slim 90-89 lead the all-time series but the Kings are up 66-65 during the Sacramento-era. 

Cooley is king for a night in win over Magic

Cooley is king for a night in win over Magic

SACRAMENTO - “Cooooooleeeeeeeey!,” chants started quietly with the Golden 1 Center crowd Friday evening. With each made basket, the rallying call picked up steam and became louder and louder.  

The legend of Jack Cooley grows.

It’s not the first time Sacramento Kings fans have cheered on the 6-foot-10 big man out of Notre Dame. Cooley became a fan favorite during Summer League in Las Vegas in July, so much so that the Kings gave the 26-year-old a shot as a two-way player this season.

“If you would tell 15-year-old Jack Cooley that he would be getting his name chanted in an NBA stadium, he probably would have exploded,” Cooley said. “It’s pretty good to have that come true and just be appreciated by a fanbase.”

The fans weren’t the only folks in the building cheering on Cooley. Sacramento’s bench could hardly control their excitement when he started making baskets.

“It was just awesome to see him do what he does, we see it in practice everyday that he’s up here,” Garrett Temple said. “Being a bull on the boards, offensive rebounds, putbacks, getting those big shoulders into guys and they can’t across his body it’s so wide. I’m real proud of him, real happy for him. He really helped change the game in the second half with his energy, his effort and his rebounding.”

Cooley’s numbers don’t jump off the page, but his impact on the game was felt. He finished the night tying his career-high with eight points and he added three rebounds and an assists in eight minutes of action.

“I’m thrilled for him,” Kosta Koufos said. “He’s a great guy, he works hard every single day. It’s good to see someone get rewarded for all the hard work they put in.”

Like JaKarr Sampson, the Kings’ other two-way player, Cooley brings a different energy and physicality to the game. He plays the game with a toughness that Sacramento lacks on most nights.

“He’s a fantastic dude,” Dave Joerger said. “He plays hard and he knows exactly why he has a chance to play and stay in the NBA, and that is - set hard screens and rebound your tail off and make those tough plays in the paint.”

This is the first season the NBA has experimented with the two-way player. Both Cooley and Sampson are eligible to come up and participate in both practice and games for a total of 45 days with the parent club. The rest of the time, they suit up for the team’s G-League affiliate in Reno.

“I think it does a great job of keeping really good players here in the States,” Cooley said of the two-way contract. “I believe there is a direct correlation with the success of the G-League and the success of the NBA. I think that the better the players that are here in the States and available for NBA teams really helps the overall skill level of the league.”

In 31 games with the Bighorns, Cooley has posted 17.6 points and 9.4 rebounds in 26.3 minutes per game. He’s played in just two games with the Kings this season, including his stretch in Friday’s 94-88 win over the Orlando Magic, but he gives the team everything he has when he’s been given an opportunity.

Coming into this season, Cooley hadn’t played in the league since 2014 when he saw action in 14 games as a member of the Utah Jazz.   

For one night, Cooley was king in Sacramento. As the team finishes the final 16 games of the season, there is always a chance that he’ll get another opportunity to shine and hear his name echo from the rafters of Golden 1 Center.

Joerger picks up 200th win of his NBA career

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USATSI

Joerger picks up 200th win of his NBA career

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings picked up their 21st win of the season on Friday evening, beating the Orlando Magic by a final of 94-88. In a 21-45 season, one win doesn’t hold a huge amount of significance overall, but this one has a special meaning for head coach Dave Joerger.

The win marked the 200th regular season victory of Joerger’s career, 53 of which have come as coach of the Kings.

“Somebody said it was the 199th the other night and you do reflect upon the people that I chased to be in the NBA -- Flip Saunders, George Karl, Phil Jackson, Eric Musselman, Rick Carlisle -- all those guys that had minor league connections and got to be head coaches.”

At 200-194, Joerger ranks 92nd on the all-time NBA coaching list, just two behind Wes Unseld for 91st place and seven wins shy of Allan Bristow’s 207 victories.