Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press
Although it’s been a challenging first two months of the season with a long stretch of road games, the Denver Nuggets appeared fresh Sunday against the Sacramento Kings.
Reserve JaVale McGee scored 19 points, Danilo Gallinari had 18, and the Nuggets built a big lead in the first half to cruise past the Kings 122-97.
It was a lopsided victory for the road-tested Nuggets, who have opened the season with 18 of their first 25 games coming away from home. Already ahead by 18 at the half, Denver outscored the Kings 33-21 in the third quarter to take a 97-67 lead heading into the fourth.
“It’s the worst stretch of travel I’ve been associated with,” said Nuggets coach George Karl, who is in his 26th season as a head coach. “All we do is travel, play a game and get in at 3 in the morning. Then we do it all over again.”
Being on the road for their NBA-leading 18th road game didn’t seem to bother the Nuggets, who produced a season-high point total. They shot 54 percent, had 27 assists, outrebounded the Kings 52-42 and committed only 11 turnovers.
“I’m enjoying what we are going through,” said Andre Iguodala, who had 11 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
“We have a tough schedule and it’s a chance for us to build something. We’re trying to play at a high level and be mentally tough.”
The Nuggets played well right from the start, scoring 16 straight points to snap a tie in the first quarter, and led by a comfortable margin the rest of the way.
“The game was decided very early in this basketball game,” Kings coach Keith Smart said. “We knew this team would run and we had to play real solid and not turn the basketball over. But that happened a lot early and we allowed them to get out and run. This is a bad loss for us.”
Denver has won seven in a row against the Kings. Sacramento has lost four in a row overall.
Sacramento’s Aaron Brooks committed a hard foul against Andre Miller late in the first quarter and a mild altercation ensued involving DeMarcus Cousins of the Kings and Kenneth Faried of the Nuggets. All four players were given technical fouls.
Reserve Jordan Hamilton had a season-high 15 points and Kosta Koufos had 12 points for the Nuggets, who improved to 7-11 on the road this season. Ty Lawson added 11 points and seven assists. Denver’s reserves had 64 points.
“Give credit to everyone that came off our bench,” Koufos said. “It was a good win for us. We started strong and finished the game strong. We ran the floor very well. Everybody played well.”
McGee made seven field goals, four of them on vicious dunks. Denver had 14 dunks in the game.
“McGee and Andre have a great connection on getting lobs in the game and easy baskets,” Karl said. “He’s (McGee) very active on the offensive glass and we got our favorite shot, which is the dunk and the layup. We also had a lot of easy baskets.”
Isaiah Thomas had 20 points and Cousins had 19 points and 11 rebounds for the Kings. Jason Thompson added 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Starting Kings guard Tyreke Evans played the first 10 minutes then left the game for good with a sore left knee. He missed five of the previous eight games because of his injured knee. Against the Nuggets, he missed all four shots and scored two points.
“You want to have all your pieces you practice with. We know Tyreke is going through some issues with his knees and we hope to get him back,” Kings guard Aaron Brooks said. “But we have to play a little harder. Right now I think we are slow on everything.”
The Kings were without Marcus Thornton for a third straight game. Their leading scorer off the bench, Thornton left the team to be with his sick mother in Louisiana.