Tight Race

Kenyon Martin has missed five of the Denver Nuggets' last six games against the Sacramento Kings due to injuries. Now, poor judgment will keep him off the court.

In a tight race for playoff position in the Western Conference, the Nuggets will have to make do without Martin when they try for a series sweep of the visiting Kings on Saturday night.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Denver -11 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today’s game, the over/under has been set at 234 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 75% of bets for this game have been placed on Denver -11 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

Martin missed Denver's 106-105 win at Sacramento on Dec. 23 because of a strained right hamstring, and didn't play in any of the Nuggets' four matchups with the Kings last season after undergoing season-ending arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in November 2006. On Saturday, the veteran forward will serve a one-game suspension for exceeding the flagrant foul points total with five.

Martin, averaging 12.6 points and 6.4 rebounds, was assessed a flagrant foul/penalty one for striking Phoenix's Boris Diaw in the face in Denver's 126-120 home win Tuesday night.

Playing without Martin will hurt a Nuggets team trying to hold off Golden State for eighth place in the West, while remaining within reach of seventh-place Dallas. Martin is averaging 22.3 points in his last three games and would have guarded Ron Artest, perhaps the Kings' best all-around player.

Denver (46-29) barely overcame Martin's absence versus Sacramento (35-40) on Dec. 23, needing a jumper from Linas Kleiza at the final buzzer to win it. The Nuggets beat the Kings in the teams' other matchup this season, 101-97 on Dec. 8 at the Pepsi Center.

Denver has won nine straight at home for the first time since earning victories in its last 12 home games of the 2004-05 season, and is 31-7 at the Pepsi Center.

The Nuggets, coming off a split of a home-and-home series with the Suns, have seven games remaining to try and improve their playoff position.

"One loss and you're back down the totem pole," Nuggets guard J.R. Smith said after Tuesday's win. "We can't be too excited about this. We've got to just keep playing our game."

Though out of the playoff race, Sacramento already has surpassed its 33 wins from last season, when it missed the postseason for the first time in nine years. The Kings have won four of their last five, including a 110-98 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night.

Kevin Martin hit four 3-pointers and finished with 26 points versus the Clippers. The fourth-year guard is averaging 29.0 points and shooting 53.8 percent (42-for-78) from the field in his last five games.

Sacramento coach Reggie Theus has praised Martin for taking a step toward becoming a complete scorer this season.

"He's starting to adapt to the game now," Theus said of Martin, averaging a career-high 23.5 points a contest. "I'm seeing things from him that I didn't see before. He's scoring easier in our offense now."

Beno Udrih, Martin's backcourt mate, has missed five straight games with a sore back. His status for Saturday is uncertain.

Rookie center Spencer Hawes, meanwhile, played against Los Angeles on a sprained left ankle after missing two games. He finished with 11 points, reaching double figures in scoring for the sixth time in 25 games after doing so just once in his first 39 contests.

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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