Nuggets (13-7) at Kings (5-15)
Scoring: Kings 15th (97.7), Nuggets sixth (101.7).
Shooting: Kings tied for fifth (47.1), Nuggets eighth (46.1).
Scoring defense: Kings 28th (105.1), Nuggets 17th (98.2).
Shooting defense: Kings 29th (48 percent), Nuggets tied for fourth (43.3).
Free throws: Kings 10th (77.5 percent), Nuggets 12th (77.1).
The links: Nuggets coverage in the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News.
The almanac: On this date in 1986, the SuperSonics beat the Rockets 136-80 at the Summit in the most lopsided road victory ever. On this date in 1997, Dallas and Houston played the first regular-season game in Mexico City, a 108-106 Rockets win. On this date in 2000, Antawn Jamison and Kobe Bryant each scored 51 points as the Warriors beat the Lakers 125-122 in overtime, the first time in nearly 38 years and the third time in league history that opposing players broke 50. It was also the second game in a row Jamison scored 51.
The 5-15 record projects to 21-61. I don't think the end result will be that bad. Logic says the roster can't be this fractured all six months. Twenty wins in 2007-08 would have been third-fewest in the league, in case anyone has started to count ping-pong balls.
The shooting defense is on early pace to be the worst for the Kings since 1992-93.
The scoring defense is tracking to their worst since 1993-94.
On the side of encouragement, the Kings undoubtedly will be represented at All-Star weekend for the first time since Peja Stojakovic was in the three-point contest in 2004. Spencer Hawes has to be among the second-year players in the rookie-sophomore game, with a good chance one of his first-year opponents will be Jason Thompson.
Other numbers of the moment:
*Scoring differential: 28th, minus-7.4 points per game.
*Three-point shooting: 30th, 30.2 percent.
*Three-point defense: 30th, 43 percent.
*Assists: 12th, 21 per game.
*Turnovers: 27th, 16.1.
*Rebound differential: 22nd, minus-2 board per game.
*Blocks: 24th, 4.2 per game.
And, the early answers to the pressing questions heading into the season:
1. Who is going to defend?
The answer is not entirely a screaming "No one!" Close, though. The Kings have gone from bad with Ron Artest to horrible, one of the predictable trade-offs to getting away from the other problems.
But, John Salmons has had some very good moments. Reggie Theus said about six weeks ago, during camp, that he saw promising strides from Hawes, and those have become reality come the regular season. Hawes is eighth in the league in blocks in a stat no one, including him, would have predicted.
2. Who besides Kevin Martin is going to score?
The answer is incomplete. Martin has missed so much time that it's impossible to gauge who will become the second offensive weapon, again the role Artest had. Salmons, at 19.2 points a game and 50.5 percent shooting, has done well, but that was mostly with Francisco Garcia and Martin missing from the lineup. With both back, and assuming Salmons returns soon from the strained thigh as expected, his scoring impact will decrease.
3. Will the Kings be able to play fast without playing sloppy?
The answer is, strangely, incomplete because the Kings have not pushed the pace nearly as much as they had planned. But this much is known: They're incredibly sloppy in the half court, making so many mistakes that have nothing to do with errors of acceleration, that you can imagine what would happen at increased RPMs.
That's the Kings a quarter of the way through. Some good signs, a lot of bad, and only 62 more games of this fun to go.