With back-to-back wins to start off a six-game road trip and a three-game winning streak, the Knicks landed in the Mile High City already on Cloud Nine.
Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets made sure to bring them back down to Earth.
The surging Knicks (37-29) were humbled by the Nuggets (44-22), losing a lop-sided affair 113-97. Jokic dominated, scoring 32 points and getting 12 rebounds for a double-double. Austin Rivers, the former Knick, was right behind him with 25 points. For the Knicks, Immanuel Quickley led the scoring with 18 points–despite starting the game on the bench. Nerlens Noel, back in the lineup after coming out of Sunday’s game against the Rockets, scored just five points with five rebounds and six blocks.
Jokic Hot Out the Gate…
If first impressions last, then tonight’s first quarter was an omen for the rest of the game. The Nuggets, tied for fifth in the league in defense, are known for locking things up. However, when the Knicks managed just 12 points for the entire first quarter it was hard to believe.
On top of that, Jokic singlehandedly carried the Nuggets to a 22-point lead going into the second quarter. He alone scored 24 points in that frame–double that of the entire Knicks team. He did not take a single shot outside the arch, instead of going 8-9 in the paint and 8-10 with his free throws. Out of all the Knicks players to respond, it was Reggie Bullock. He was the highest-scoring player that quarter with just four points. Julius Randle scored just a single point off a free throw, going 0-4 otherwise.
…But the Knicks Limp Back to Life
Despite a dreadful start to the game, the Knicks were able to pick themselves up and score. In fact, they outscored the Nuggets in each of the remaining three quarters.
It wasn’t enough, however, and the lead the Nuggets had opened up in the first proved impossible to overcome. Late in the fourth quarter, the Nuggets even expanded their lead to 31 points–the largest margin of the night.
All was not lost in a game where the Knicks never had the lead, however. Quickley, who led the team with 18 points, played well in the second and fourth quarters. In the final frame, he went 2-3 from behind the arch and 5-6 with his free throws. After him, four Knicks players finished the game with just 14 points: Bullock, Randle, RJ Barrett, and Derrick Rose. Randle and Barrett in particular both had mediocre nights, going 5-15 and 4-13 respectively. While all of Barrett’s made shots were three-pointers, Randle went 0-5 from behind the arch. In the end, the Knicks actually had a better 3P% than the Nuggets (37.1% to 30.8%) and a better FG% as well (38.4% to 37.8%). Despite these stats, the Knicks could not dig themselves out of the hole they had made in that awful first quarter.
Looking Ahead for the Knicks
Tonight’s game was the third in a long, six-game road trip. They’ll have a day off tomorrow before facing the Suns on Friday night and from there they’ll go to California. There, they’ll play two games–a Sunday matinee against the Clippers and a Tuesday night game against the Lakers.
The Hawks beat the Suns today, meaning they sit just half a game behind the fourth-place Knicks. With just six games left in the season, it’s crunch time for New York. They have the resiliency to bounce back from disappointing games like tonight. Case in point, they were on a three-game winning streak after losing their nine-game winning streak last week. Hopefully, a trip back down from the Mile High City will clear their minds and better prepare them for the Suns. Having just played them last week and losing 118-110, the Knicks will be looking for revenge.