DENVER (AP) — The Sacramento Kings didn’t need another dominant effort from DeMarcus Cousins to beat the Denver Nuggets again.
Rudy Gay had 25 points and nine rebounds, Seth Curry scored 17 points and the Kings rallied past Denver 115-106 on Saturday night to sweep the three-game season series.
Darren Collison had 14 points and eight assists and Willie Cauley-Stein and Ben McLemore also scored 14 points for Sacramento, which played without Cousins and Rajon Rondo.
“You have to play with the guys available,” Gay said. “It was a back-to-back and guys came in and kept our play at the same level.”
The Kings left Cousins and Rondo — their two best players — in Sacramento for the one-game trip. Cousins averaged 38 points, 14.5 rebounds and three blocks in two wins over the Nuggets this season.
George Karl used only eight players but spread out the minutes. His team outscored Denver 31-18 in the fourth 24 hours after losing at home to Miami.
“This is the toughest back-to-back in the NBA,” the Kings coach said. “Coming from the West Coast and getting to bed at 4 a.m., and then playing in altitude when you just played a tough, hard first game last night in Sacramento. We weren’t playing anybody 40 minutes. It was like who was going to play good was going to finish.”
Gary Harris led Denver with 19 points and Emmanuel Mudiay and Joffrey Lauvergne had 15 apiece. The Nuggets failed to take advantage of a short-handed team for the second straight game.
“You look at the last two games, we played against a depleted Pelicans team, got our butts kicked,” Will Barton said. “Tonight we played a depleted Sacramento team and got our butts kicked. It’s a terrible effort. Just a bad effort.”
The Nuggets looked like they would capitalize on Cousins’ absence when they took a 95-89 lead early in the fourth, but the Kings used a 16-2 run to go up 103-97. McLemore scored eight points in a row, including two 3-pointers that gave Sacramento the lead for good.
“Playing a lot of people was the key to winning,” McLemore said. “We didn’t have tired players in the fourth quarter.”
Mudiay scored five straight points as Denver rallied to make it 110-106, but a short jumper by Kosta Koufos gave Sacramento a six-point lead with 59.5 seconds remaining.
Harris missed a 3-pointer at the other end and the Kings closed it out at the foul line.
“I thought our defense was awful,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “They played last night, got in late and played with limited bodies and came out and played with a much greater sense of urgency and they deserved to win.”
Kings: Karl said Cousins and Rondo didn’t travel so he could give some younger players more playing time. “You try open up windows and minutes for guys to rotate the game easily,” he said. “Instead of getting 5 to 10 minutes, maybe they will get 20 to 25 minutes. I think that makes them more comfortable and builds more confidence.” … G Marco Belinelli (sore right foot) and F Omri Casspi (strained right hamstring) did not play. … The Kings swept the season series from Denver for the first time since 2002-03.
Nuggets: F Darrell Arthur sat out with sore knees. Arthur missed two games in December with left knee soreness. … C Jusuf Nurkic returned after missing three games due to illness. He finished with nine points and nine rebounds in 17 minutes. … F Axel Toupane scored a career-high 14 points.