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Nuggets 111, Knicks 93: “Ahh, Frank...tu nous a manque”

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Drub a drub drub, three L’s since NY’s last Dub.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at New York Knicks Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets defeated the New York Knicks 111-93 in New York City Friday night. No surprise: Denver’s tied with Golden State for the best record in the Western Conference, while New York is a solid three games “ahead” of their closest competitor for the worst record in the league. Even with Frank Ntilikina playing his first game in nearly two months and Kadeem Allen back after an illness, this one was never a fair fight.

I was granted tonight’s recap on the condition that I fit some Frank Pentangeli into it. So your spirit guide for tonight’s loss is Frankie Five Angels quotes from Godfather II. If that sounds derivative, then you now know what this loss felt like.

“There’s not gonna be no trouble from me.”

The Knicks were down 19 after the opening quarter, thanks in large part to a 15-0 Nugget run. Four Denver starters scored in double-figures; all five had 5+ rebounds; three collected 4+ assists; combined they dished 16 assists to just four turnovers. The Knicks came off an dispiriting performance a couple nights ago against the Jazz. Putting up a fight would have been nice. Instead, there was no trouble for the visitors at any point in this game.

“I don’t have your brain for big deals. But this is a street thing.”

Some fights come down to who lands the first haymaker. The Knicks and Nuggets each scored 50 points from two-pointers and 16 from free throws. Your 18-point margin of victory stemmed from New York hitting just 9 of 32 threes versus Denver making 15 threes (on 40% of their attempts). That’s a lot of haymakers.

“You’re high up in the...mountains.”

The New York Mets used to have a third baseman named Howard Johnson. HoJo was the first player I ever saw put up 30/30/30 seasons: 30 home runs, 30 stolen bases, and 30 errors. The Knick mountains in the middle, DeAndre Jordan and Mitchell Robinson, combined for a 20/20/20 last night: 23 points, 21 rebounds and a -20 rating.

“You’re passing judgment on how I run my thing.”

Emmanuel Mudiay was aggressive looking for his shot early and often, ending up with more shot attempts than anyone on either team. The counting numbers ended up respectable, but Jamal Murray is not here for your numbers or your respect. He’s here to Fenrir this shot. You have been weighed, Emmanuel. You have been measured. And you have been found wanting.

“It was all lies. Everything.”

For a brief stretch in the third, Mario Hezonja looked like he might be willing to assume the role of hero as he did in the team’s last win vs. the Lakers. On one defensive possession he grabbed the rebound, dribbled to midcourt, noticed Murray, Nikola Jokic and Will Barton all ahead of him, all with their backs turned, and he exploded to the bucket, drawing a foul. Later a Hezonja pull-up over Jokic cut the gap to single digits. He’d cap a 10-0 Knick run finding Jordan for an alley-oop that make it a seven-point game. After a Gary Harris three, Hez answered with another jumper. It seemed Super Mario had been activated. But those two baskets would be his only two all night, and before the quarter was over a Monte Morris hook-shot lay-up over Robinson put the Nuggets up 20 again.

Hezonja would not save New York. Nothing would.

“They leave the gambling till last.”

The sequence of the night was Robinson blocking a Malik Beasley jumper, Allen spinning as he pushed in transition and finding Mitchell for a satisfying slam and-one. The play started right as Mike Breen was laughing at Walt Frazier praising Willis Reed’s unselfishness before adding that Dick Barnett must still owe the Captain “$10,000 or $20,000.” Can’t tell if that figure is gambling-related or not, but that story coming up right as the player most teams were afraid to gamble last June was once again making jaws drop felt mad apropos.

“I don’t know nothing about that.”

With just under 10:00 left, Kevin Knox cut the deficit to 14, 86-72.

In less than two minutes, the Nuggets ripped off 10 unanswered. 96-72 so fast it barely registered. I don’t know nothing about how that happened. Like, blink-of-an-eye from “Maybe this is another spirited late run” to “They gonna lose by 30?”

“What do I do now?”

We dig into some notes.

Notes:

  • Ntilikina notes: Frank was +7 in a first half the Knicks lost by 14. In 25 minutes the counting stats were fairly typical: he made just one shot, a three. Dished five assists. Zero turnovers. I think his first 4 passes were all no-look looks; he must have thrown at least a half-dozen. Man was happy to be out there playing. He guarded guards. Guarded Paul Millsap. Even took reps against a near-seven footer.

Late in the game Frank was fouled on a jumper and it was no less bizarre a sight than if a giant squid had fallen through the MSG ceiling, landed on the floor and been fouled on a jumper.

  • Knox missed eight of his first nine looks before heating up and making five of his last seven. Knox was ready for the throwdown of the year.

That’s like the fourth time this year he’s been on the verge of a poster and then...nah.

  • Denver had 24 assists to just eight turnovers. They really are fun to watch, despite cheating us by wearing perhaps their only non-gorgeous jersey.
  • Mike Breen mentioned Jokic has 21 games this year of 10+ assists. That’s remarkable. I imagine that’s why he remarked on it.

Only 21, 17 and 5 for the Serb last night. Now that Porzingis is gone, I feel I can maybe get a fair answer to this question here.

Poll

Who ya got?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    Kristaps Porzingis
    (60 votes)
  • 85%
    Nikola Jokic
    (358 votes)
418 votes total Vote Now
  • Mudiay came out aggressive from the jump looking to score.

Here was your anti-Knox, starting out hot but then cooling off. Mudiay took more shots than any player on either team. And yet I find him so likable on a human level I’m not bothered. Plus the Knicks are 14-59. That eases this particular pain, too.

  • Tired take: Knox missed a bunch of shots too strong off the glass.

Wired take: He scored 10 of his 19 in the 4th. The man is trending up.

Inspired take: Knox’s conditioning has improved to the point that he has more energy than he realizes, like a well-rested sinker-ball pitcher. As he adjusts to his newfound endurance, watch out, Association.

  • There was an “Isaiah Thomas” chant late. If Kyrie Irving leaves Boston this summer and some of those vaunted Celtic picks don’t turn out to be as highly valued as they suspect (Sacramento’s first-rounder this year, for instance), I’m very down to live in a century where my children and yours grow up learning about the Curse of I.T. NBA media and many fans are conditioned to privilege management over labor when discussing virtually any aspect of the business. That Thomas is still being cheered and revered all these years and teams later warms my heart and hopefully gives organizations pause when they pursue heartlessness.
  • NARRATOR: It won’t.
  • Utah and Denver have combined to score 105 points off of threes on 44% accuracy the past two games.
  • The Nuggets’ guards, especially Morris and Harris, had more success than most teams have had going at Robinson. I love love LOVE Mitch. I am very interesting in seeing what adjustments players and teams make attacking him next season after an entire offseason to prep.
  • Denver is now 22-1 when their opponent scores under 100. New York is 0-23 when failing to reach the century mark.
  • After Ntilikina found Robinson for the and-one off a pick and roll, Clyde Frazier called it “the oldest play in basketball.” Last game he said the give-and-go was. Settle this once and for all.

Poll

What is the oldest play in basketball?

This poll is closed

  • 19%
    Pick-and-roll
    (71 votes)
  • 29%
    Give-and-go
    (107 votes)
  • 50%
    Mudiay on his back after missing a lay-up
    (185 votes)
363 votes total Vote Now

Quoth Kaisersoser37: “Ahh, Frank...tu nous a manque.” We did miss Ntilikina. He’s still such a compelling wild card when imagining the Knicks’ future. Next game is Sunday when they host the Clippers, who play in Los Angeles, have a very rich owner who doesn’t cast a shadow of sullen entitlement wherever he walks, and also have a ton of cap space this summer. Yet another wild card when imagining the future. See you then.