Two of the Western Conference's top teams meet on Sunday when the Sacramento Kings visit the Denver Nuggets in the regular-season finale
The Nuggets (52-29), who clinched the top seed in the conference earlier this week, lost their third straight game with a 118-114 setback at the Utah Jazz on Saturday
Two-time reigning Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic recorded 10 rebounds and 10 assists but scored just six points on 2-of-5 shooting in 27 minutes of action. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jamal Murray shouldered the scoring load by scoring 21 and 20 points, respectively.
"We started off very slow, but we picked it up second quarter and end of the third quarter," Caldwell-Pope said. "For us to start that way, we can't come out slow like that."
The Nuggets have surrendered an average of 120.3 points during their three-game losing skid
"I hate losing," Denver coach Michael Malone said. "Losing seeps into who you are."
Denver played without Jokic for four of the past six games because of a calf injury, and his minutes were limited in his two appearances.
Both teams' minute distributions will be a crucial point to Sunday's matchup. The Nuggets are locked in as the top seed for the first time in the franchise's NBA history -- they were the No. 1 seed in the 1976 ABA Playoffs. Sacramento is set as the West's No. 3 seed
The Kings (48-33) have ended the league's longest playoff drought, dating back to 2006, and recorded the franchise's most regular-season wins since 2004-05. Sacramento comes into the finale on a two-game skid after dropping decisions to the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday and Golden State Warriors on Friday
Standouts De'Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis and Kevin Huerter sat out on Friday for rest purposes, along with spark plug Malik Monk (left leg). Fox is averaging a team-best 25.2 points per game, while Sabonis has contributed club-high averages in rebounds (12.4) and assists (7.3) to go along with his 19.2 points per contest. Huerter has added 15.2 points per game for Sacramento.
Trey Lyles and Chimezie Metu led the short-handed Kings with 15 points apiece against the Warriors
"Both halves we started out real slow," Sacramento coach Mike Brown said. "We had to play catch-up. Fighting uphill against a team like that ... made it tough."
Golden State is a potential first-round opponent for Sacramento in the upcoming playoffs, although the Warriors head into the final day of the regular season in a heated competition for the No. 5 seed in the West.
"They're the defending champs. It's going to be tough to go in there and go toe-to-toe, but we're going to attack it head-on," Metu said of Golden State in the postgame press conference. "We're not scared of them; we're not scared of anybody one-through-eight."
"We feel like, when we're at full health, we can go in there and beat them," he added.
The Kings have the NBA's most prolific offense at 121.0 points per game
--Field Level Media