DENVER (AP) — DeMarcus Cousins was bleeding from somewhere and grew more and more frustrated as he struggled to pinpoint the source.
He checked his arms for a cut in the locker room after the game, his chest for a scratch and his legs for a slice before finally figuring it out — his nose was dripping blood.
It was that sort of physical contest.
Darren Collison scored 21 points, including three free throws in the final 16.2 seconds, in a contest that featured 63 fouls as the Sacramento Kings held off the Denver Nuggets 110-105 on Monday night.
“We willed our way to this win,” said Cousins, who had 19 points and five rebounds. “We played pretty tough tonight. We grinded this win out.”
The Kings are off to a 3-1 start for the first time since 2010-11. Impressive wins, too. They beat Portland on Halloween. Then, they knocked off the Clippers in Los Angeles on Sunday and turned around to outhustle the Nuggets on the second night of a back-to-back.
“This is definitely a confidence booster going forward,” Collison said.
Early on, the Kings couldn’t find any sort of offensive rhythm, missing shot after shot after shot.
In years past, that might’ve led someone to take it upon their shoulders to shoot the team out of the slump.
Not this version of the Kings. Not through four games, anyway. When times have turned tough, they’ve stayed the course.
“Everybody is saying, ‘Play through it, fellas. We’re going to get through this,’” Cousins said. “Everybody has that mindset, so we’ll be able to handle (tough) situations. That’s a good sign.”
The Nuggets had seven players in double figures, led by Arron Afflalo and JaVale McGee with 16 points apiece. Wilson Chandler scored 12 of his 14 in the fourth quarter.
The difference in this game was at the free throw line, where the Kings made 40 of 47.
“They shot too many free throws,” Darrell Arthur said. “We have to do a better job without fouling.”
Tied at 96, Ray McCallum drove past the Denver defense for a layup with 3:18 remaining to give the Kings a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Chandler pulled the Nuggets close when he was fouled by Omri Casspi on a 3-point attempt with 25.6 seconds left. Chandler made all three to make it 105-103. That’s as close as the Nuggetswould get as Rudy Gay followed with two free throws.
Denver tried to cover Cousins by sending a wave of big men at him, but he helped get Timofey Mozgov, McGee and Jusuf Nurkic all in foul trouble. Cousins was coming off a 34-point, 17-rebound performance against the Clippers.
The Nuggets went with Chandler at small forward instead of Danilo Gallinari, who’s still working his way back from a knee injury that sidelined him for 18 months.
Gallinari remains on a strict minutes restriction and played just 14:01. He was 0 for 6 from the field.
“Got to get Gallo going, try to find a rhythm for him, so he can see the ball go through the basket,”Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said. “Get him going and get his confidence up.”
Shaw issued a challenge to Ty Lawson on his 27th birthday — score 27 points. Not for the game, but by halftime.
Lawson fell way short, missing all five of his shots from the field in the first half. He did hit 5 of 6 free throws.
Shaw’s trying to get Lawson to be more assertive, even giving him free reign with the offense. Lawson finished with nine points and 12 assists.
“Not a great way to celebrate my birthday,” Lawson said.
Kings: Jason Thompson had 10 rebounds in just over 23 minutes. ... Reggie Evans had 14 rebounds. It’s the 70th time in his career he’s had 14 or more rebounds.
Nuggets: The Nuggets started Chandler over Gallinari at small forward with an eye toward Friday when Cleveland comes to town. Shaw doesn’t want Gallinari guarding LeBron James. “It will be better for us to have Wilson starting out with that matchup and letting the offense run through Gallo with the second unit,” Shaw explained. ... Kenneth Faried picked up a technical in the first quarter for arguing a call. He finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Kings: Host the Nuggets on Wednesday.