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Murray's big 4th quarter helps Nuggets hold off Kings 105-92

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) Denver coach Mike Malone was more impressed with the way his team played defense to close out Sacramento than he was beating his former club for the second time in six days.

With the Nuggets maintaining their hold on the final playoff spot in the West, that makes sense.

Jamal Murray scored 11 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter and Denver held on to beat Sacramento 105-92 on Saturday night.

''That's back-to-back games where we've had pretty good defense,'' Malone said. ''If that can continue, we're going to give ourselves a real chance down the stretch here. Our guys know it's now or never. We can't wait. If we want to be a consistent team that can win, it has to be defense.''

Gary Harris had 24 points, Nikola Jokic added 20 points and 14 rebounds and Danilo Gallinari scored 15 as the Nuggets beat the Kings to even the season series between the teams after dropping the first two games.

It was also a notable win for Malone, his second over the Kings after going 0-4 against Sacramento.

''Somebody said, `Hey, the monkey's off your back.' There was never a monkey on my back,'' Malone said. ''I love Sacramento. I'm just happy that we won.''

Denver led by as much as 14 before Sacramento pulled within two at 79-77 with nine minutes remaining. Murray made a 3-pointer and Harris added two free throws following a steal.

After Willie Cauley-Stein scored for the Kings, Murray made two free throws and a layup to help the Nuggets pull away.

More importantly for Denver, the Nuggets increased their lead to two games over Portland for the final playoff spot in the West.

''It's not about making the playoffs,'' said Mason Plumlee, who had eight points, seven rebounds and eight assists. ''We want to be playing well going into the playoffs and we want to have a rhythm and be hitting our stride. This has to be more of the norm.''

Buddy Hield had 17 points and six rebounds for Sacramento, which lost its eighth straight. The Kings are 1-8 since trading All-Star DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans.

''We're still trying to figure everything out,'' said Skal Labissiere, who had two dunks early in the fourth quarter for Sacramento. ''It's been a tough stretch. It's just a matter of learning how to finish games with us.''

The Nuggets beat the Kings 108-96 in Denver on March 6 behind a career-high 36 points from Wilson Chandler. This time, Chandler was limited to six points on 3-of-13 shooting in the rematch, but it hardly mattered.

Sacramento shot 39.5 percent in the first half and trailed the entire second half.

Denver led by 14 early despite shooting 5 of 17 beyond the arc in the first half. Jokic provided a big lift inside and nearly had a double-double before the break while helping Denver to a 54-44 lead.

PLAYMAKER PLUMLEE

Plumlee's all-around game - one of his best since arriving in a trade from Portland on Feb. 13 - had some joking in the Nuggets locker room after the game that Malone might contemplate starting the 6-foot-11-inch forward at point guard soon. ''No, I don't believe that,'' Plumlee said with a laugh. ''(Sacramento) tried to pressure a lot of passes and a lot of dribble-handoffs, and guys made good cuts.''

TIP-INS

Nuggets: Harris had nine points, including a dunk, a 3-pointer and two backdoor layups on bounce passes from Plumlee as part of an 11-3 run in the third quarter. He finished 10 of 15 from the floor. ... Malone coached the Kings for one year before getting fired 24 games into the 2014-15 season.

Kings: Tyreke Evans scored 16 points after being held out a night earlier, a regular routine for the veteran forward who is not playing in back-to-back games this season. ... Former five-time All-Star and Sacramento favorite Chris Webber attended the game and sat courtside next to owner Vivek Ranadive.

UP NEXT

Nuggets: Return to Denver to host the Lakers on Monday.

Kings: Host Orlando on Monday before going on the road for five of six games.

Copyright 2017 by Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

Key Players
N. Jokic
15 PF
T. Evans
32 PG
18.7 Min. Per Game 18.7
11.5 Pts. Per Game 11.5
3.6 Ast. Per Game 3.6
3.4 Reb. Per Game 3.4
60.8 Field Goal % 44.3
59.3 Three Point % 43.4
78.8 Free Throw % 87.5
+ 2 Giorgios Papagiannis made layup, assist by Darren Collison 0:05
  Defensive rebound by Giorgios Papagiannis 0:15
  Jamal Murray missed 3-pt. jump shot 0:17
+ 2 Darren Collison made driving layup 0:39
  Defensive rebound by Langston Galloway 0:52
  Juan Hernangomez missed 3-pt. jump shot 0:54
  Defensive rebound by Roy Hibbert 1:07
  Langston Galloway missed jump shot 1:09
  Personal foul on Jamal Murray 1:14
  Personal foul on Jamal Murray 1:14
+ 2 Gary Harris made jump shot 1:39
Team Stats
Points 105 92
Field Goals 40-85 (47.1%) 36-82 (43.9%)
3-Pointers 9-34 (26.5%) 8-23 (34.8%)
Free Throws 16-18 (88.9%) 12-20 (60.0%)
Total Rebounds 51 50
Offensive 9 10
Defensive 35 31
Team 7 9
Assists 21 24
Steals 8 4
Blocks 8 2
Turnovers 9 13
Fouls 16 15
Technicals 1 0
20 PTS, 14 REB, 2 AST
17 PTS, 6 REB, 3 AST
1234T
away team logo Nuggets 30-35 25292130105
home team logo Kings 25-40 1925252392
Team Stats
away team logo Nuggets 30-35 109.1 PPG 47.7 RPG 24.0 APG
home team logo Kings 25-40 PPG RPG APG
Key Players
G. Harris SG 12.9 PPG 2.8 RPG 2.2 APG 42.4 FG%
B. Hield SG 20.7 PPG 5.0 RPG 2.5 APG 45.8 FG%
Top Scorers
G. Harris SG 24 PTS 3 REB 2 AST
B. Hield SG 17 PTS 6 REB 3 AST
47.1 FG% 43.9
26.5 3PT FG% 34.8
88.9 FT% 60.0
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB +/- FPTS
G. Harris 24 3 2 10/15 2/5 2/2 0 36 2 1 1 1 2 +9 33
N. Jokic 20 14 2 7/12 1/3 5/5 1 30 2 0 2 3 11 +14 38
D. Gallinari 15 5 2 5/11 1/3 4/5 0 34 1 0 1 0 5 +11 24
J. Nelson 8 2 4 3/8 1/3 1/2 1 33 0 1 1 0 2 +4 18
W. Chandler 6 4 1 3/13 0/5 0/0 3 29 0 0 0 1 3 +4 12
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB +/- FPTS
G. Harris 24 3 2 10/15 2/5 2/2 0 36 2 1 1 1 2 +9 33
N. Jokic 20 14 2 7/12 1/3 5/5 1 30 2 0 2 3 11 +14 38
D. Gallinari 15 5 2 5/11 1/3 4/5 0 34 1 0 1 0 5 +11 24
J. Nelson 8 2 4 3/8 1/3 1/2 1 33 0 1 1 0 2 +4 18
W. Chandler 6 4 1 3/13 0/5 0/0 3 29 0 0 0 1 3 +4 12
Bench PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB +/- FPTS
J. Murray 14 3 0 5/10 2/5 2/2 3 20 2 0 1 2 1 +8 18
M. Plumlee 8 7 8 3/3 0/0 2/2 3 21 1 3 2 2 5 +10 33
J. Hernangomez 6 1 0 2/3 2/3 0/0 1 5 0 0 0 0 1 0 7
D. Arthur 2 1 1 1/4 0/3 0/0 3 15 0 2 0 0 1 +4 7
W. Barton 2 3 1 1/6 0/4 0/0 1 16 0 1 1 0 3 +5 7
R. Hibbert 0 1 0 0/0 0/0 0/0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 -4 1
K. Faried - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
M. Miller - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E. Mudiay - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
M. Beasley - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 105 44 21 40/85 9/34 16/18 16 240 8 8 9 9 35 +65 198
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB +/- FPTS
B. Hield 17 6 3 6/8 3/5 2/2 0 30 0 0 2 2 4 +1 27
W. Cauley-Stein 13 5 5 3/11 0/0 7/8 0 35 0 0 3 0 5 -4 25
K. Koufos 10 8 1 5/8 0/0 0/0 4 28 1 0 1 3 5 -4 20
A. Afflalo 8 3 0 3/9 2/4 0/0 2 23 0 0 1 0 3 -10 10
D. Collison 8 1 5 4/5 0/0 0/1 0 24 1 0 0 0 1 -2 20
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB +/- FPTS
B. Hield 17 6 3 6/8 3/5 2/2 0 30 0 0 2 2 4 +1 27
W. Cauley-Stein 13 5 5 3/11 0/0 7/8 0 35 0 0 3 0 5 -4 25
K. Koufos 10 8 1 5/8 0/0 0/0 4 28 1 0 1 3 5 -4 20
A. Afflalo 8 3 0 3/9 2/4 0/0 2 23 0 0 1 0 3 -10 10
D. Collison 8 1 5 4/5 0/0 0/1 0 24 1 0 0 0 1 -2 20
Bench PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB +/- FPTS
T. Evans 16 3 2 6/15 2/5 2/4 0 24 1 1 1 0 3 -5 24
S. Labissiere 7 5 1 3/7 0/0 1/5 2 20 0 0 2 2 3 -7 12
T. Lawson 6 4 3 3/8 0/2 0/0 6 24 1 0 1 1 3 -11 16
A. Tolliver 3 2 1 1/4 1/3 0/0 0 11 0 0 1 1 1 -13 6
G. Temple 2 2 3 1/5 0/4 0/0 1 18 0 1 0 1 1 -14 11
G. Papagiannis 2 1 0 1/1 0/0 0/0 0 2 0 0 0 0 1 +2 3
L. Galloway 0 1 0 0/1 0/0 0/0 0 2 0 0 0 0 1 +2 1
R. Gay - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B. McLemore - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
M. Richardson - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 92 41 24 36/82 8/23 12/20 15 241 4 2 13 10 31 -65 175