Kings vs. Nuggets watch guide: Lineups, injury report, player usage

After an extremely successful 5-1 homestand, the Sacramento Kings look to finish off their pre-All-Star break schedule strong on the road. They’ll face a very good Denver Nuggets team at elevation before shutting it down for a week for the break.

The Kings ran over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday afternoon to move four games over the .500 mark on the season. With the win and a Clippers loss, Sacramento moved into a virtual tie with Los Angeles for the eighth-best record in the Western Conference.

Denver went through a rough patch as of late, dropping three straight before bouncing back Monday against the Miami Heat. Nikola Jokic leads the charge, but Denver has plenty of other weapons, including former Kings guard Isaiah Thomas, who is scheduled to return to action for the first time this season after sitting out with a hip injury.

Kings Pregame Live on NBC Sports California begins at 5:30 p.m., with tipoff scheduled for 6:00 p.m. All coverage can be seen on the MyTeams by NBC Sports app.

After the All-Star break, Sacramento starts the backstretch of the season with three tough road games, beginning on Feb. 21 with their final match of the season against the Golden State Warriors. They’ll face the Thunder and Timberwolves on the road before returning home to host the Milwaukee Bucks on Feb. 27.

Line

Nuggets by 7.5

Projected Lineups

Kings
PG De’Aaron Fox
SG Buddy Hield
SF Harrison Barnes
PF Nemanja Bjelica
C Willie Cauley-Stein

Nuggets
PG Jamal Murray
SG Malik Beasley
SF Will Barton
PF Mason Plumlee
C Nikola Jokic

Injury Report

Kings 
No injuries to report.

Nuggets
PG Isaiah Thomas (hip) is probable. SF Tyler Lydon (concussion) is questionable. SG Gary Harris (groin) and SF Michael Porter Jr. (back) are out.

Rotation Outlook

Kings

With a practice or two under their belt, coach Dave Joerger’s squad is trying to build chemistry on the fly. The Kings have found a way to win two straight while working both Barnes and Alec Burks into the rotation, but it hasn’t been easy.

Barnes has played extremely well defensively in his first two games with the club, but he has yet to have a breakout performance on the offensive end. The 26-year-old forward shot 3-of-9 from the field in each of his first two starts, which is a far cry from the 14.6 attempts he was averaging with Dallas.

Following the team’s win over the Suns, Hield said he continues to talk to Barnes about shooting more. Once comfortable, Barnes should fit in well into the Kings’ equal opportunity offense.

Rookie Marvin Bagley is coming off a career performance against Phoenix. He pounded the team that passed on him in the 2018 NBA Draft, dropping 32 points and seven rebounds on Deandre Ayton and his group.

[RELATED: Kings’ Bagley reminds Suns what they passed on in draft]

Nuggets

Michael Malone has his Nuggets playing at such an incredible level this season, he has earned the honor of coaching the Western Conference All-Star team.

Integrating Thomas into the rotation after nearly a year away from the game won’t be easy, but Malone is extremely comfortable with the two-time All-Star from their time in Sacramento.

Despite struggling with injuries all season, the Nuggets currently rank second in the West with a record of 38-18. Denver is third in the league in offensive rating and 14th in defensive rating so far this season. They are second in the NBA in offensive rebounding and they take care of the ball well, giving it away just 13.4 times per game.

Denver has won the previous two matchups between these two teams and has already clinched the season series. In their last battle, Sacramento was playing well, but Murray got hot in the second half and almost single-handedly pulled out the win.