George Karl Returns To Denver: The Nuggets Set To Duel With The Kings


The Denver Nuggets will play the Sacramento Kings for the fourth and final time this season, when they tip-off at the Pepsi Center this afternoon. Sacramento head coach George Karl will be making his return to Denver after coaching the Nuggets for eight and a half seasons.

Karl won 423 games roaming the sidelines for the Nuggets, and he led the team to nine straight Playoff appearances. Despite being in postseason contention yearly, the Nuggets made it out of the first-round only one time (2009) under Karl’s watch. In his final season with the team (2013), the Nuggets went 57-25 and he won the NBA’s Coach of the Year award, but he was fired shortly after the third-seeded Nuggets lost to the Golden State Warriors in the first-round.

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After sitting out one season as an ESPN basketball analyst, Karl (the NBA’s sixth winningest coach in history with 1,140 wins) was hired by the Kings on February 12th. He became the third coach the Kings have had leading the team this season, after Michael Malone and Tyrone Corbin were both given pink slips. Karl has gone 9-18 as the lead man in Sacramento, but he should have his fingerprints on next season’s roster, and that will be a better measurement of success for him as the Kings head coach.

Both of these teams have struggled over the past few weeks, with the Nuggets dropping five of their past six games, and the Kings losing seven of eight. Regardless, this has been an entertaining matchup over the three games these teams have met previously. Sacramento has won two of the three clashes, but the games have been ultra-competitive and high-scoring. The teams have combined for an average combined score of 227.0 points, and the Nuggets won the last duel on January 9th, 118-108.

The Nuggets are coming off of another high-scoring battle of their own — they lost 144-143 to the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night. The game ended up going into double-overtime before the Mavericks prevailed on a Raymond Felton layup with seven seconds remaining. Danilo Gallinari ended up finishing with a career-high 47 points, but it came in a disappointing loss. Melvin Hunt, a former Karl assistant, is now 9-11 as the interim head coach in Denver.

It is always tough to lose a game when you battle into extra periods, but it may be the best result for the Nuggets (29-50) at this point. They currently have the seventh-best odds of winning the NBA’s draft lottery on May 19th. The Kings (27-52) are the team right below them in the standings, and the Detroit Pistons (30-49) are directly above them. Depending on how the games go today (Detroit will lock horns with the Charlotte Hornets), the draft lottery order could be determined sixth through eighth. If Denver and Detroit win, the Kings will have the sixth-best odds, the Nuggets will be seventh, and the Pistons will be eighth. It will be interesting to see if these scenarios have any impact on tonight’s game.

There are a number of key players sitting out of this game with injury, including All-Star DeMarcus Cousin, who has been deactivated for the rest of the season (sore right foot). Rudy Gay (concussions effects) and Darren Collison (hip) are both out for the Kings, while Reggie Evans (thumb) is listed as doubtful. Darrell Arthur (calf), Erick Green (arm) and Jameer Nelson (hip) are all questionable for the Nuggets.

Most fans and analysts around the league would look at this matchup and yawn, but this game should have a lot of meaning for Denver Nuggets fans. George Karl was a huge part of the Nuggets history and he should receive a loud ovation when he returns to the Pepsi Center. The battle for lottery position is also a very intriguing storyline that could potentially have a long-term impact for both squads. Last but not least, these teams have matched up well and we should be in for a high-scoring game. There are only three games remaining in this season, you might as well enjoy it while you can.

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