DENVER — The Nuggets showed they can start fast and finish strong.
Ty Lawson scored 26 points, Andre Iguodala had 20 and the Nuggets used a dominant first three quarters to rout the Sacramento Kings 121-93 on Saturday night.
Danilo Gallinari added 14 points for the Nuggets, who led 71-49 at intermission to set a season high for points in a half. They shot 62 percent in the first two quarters and had three players in double figures.
“This was a good one for us, knowing we can take care of business,” Iguodala said. “We’ve got to stay on each other and hold each other accountable.”
The Nuggets have struggled with slow starts during this home-heavy schedule in January. It cost them against Minnesota and Washington but they made sure the Kings, coming off a 10-point loss to Oklahoma City, were never in this one.
“We knew if we could take the heart early they wouldn’t want to play too much or have too much fight, especially at altitude,” Lawson said.
They led by as many as 35 in the second half and were up 101-69 heading into the fourth period when most of the regular players watched the rest of the game.
“We talked about how they run the floor. We just couldn’t stop it,” Sacramento guard Tyreke Evans said. “They run the floor, they got rebounds, they got steals, one pass and layup dunk. We knew what they wanted to do. We just didn’t stop it.”
Aaron Brooks scored 16 points off the bench and Evans had 15 for the Kings, who have lost four straight. DeMarcus Cousins was held to three points. It’s the first time in his past 17 games he failed to score in double figures.
Cousins wasn’t the only Kings player struggling. Their starters combined for just 43 points while Denver’s first five all scored in double figures and finished with a combined 81 points.
“I can’t deny the starters deserve a lot of credit for tonight’s game,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “Our bench has been great but this game, especially A.I. and Ty, they were playing well offensively and defensively and made the game easy.”
The Nuggets took charge with a dominant first quarter when they shot 74 percent and hit 17 of 23 shots. Lawson led the way with 15 points and hit all three of his 3-point attempts.
Sacramento committed five turnovers in the period, two of which came on consecutive possessions and led to layups by Lawson.
The Kings were never really in it. They led by one early in the game but a 28-7 run by Denver made it 35-15 late in the first quarter and trailed 39-25 heading into the second.
“I don’t think it took us out emotionally but when you look up at that board and you see 39 up there, you know you have to have a huge second quarter to get back under control,” Sacramento coach Keith Smart said.
The Kings showed brief life early in the second quarter when Marcus Thornton hit a 3-pointer to cut it 39-28, but the lead never dipped below double digits.
Denver’s bench, led by JaVale McGee, scored 14 points in the second quarter as the lead grew to 22. Iguodala’s 3-pointer with 10 seconds left in the second finished the Nuggets best half of the season.
“Ty had it going, he started things off and we got on a roll,” Iguodala said.
Denver opened the third quarter on a 17-6 run to lead 88-55.
“It’s always hard. Especially when you play a game the night before and you get in real late,” Smart said. “You have to play a controlled basketball game. I though our passes were shaky that lead to 25 points on 20 turnovers. Fatigue or whatever it might be, it happens sometimes in this building.”