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Game Preview: Knicks at Nuggets- 02/08/22

A stop in Mile-High City for night two of a back-to-back.

Denver Nuggets v New York Knicks Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The New York Knicks (24-30) are reeling from their third straight loss and yet another meltdown, this time in Utah. The five-game road trip is unfolding as expected, and there’s no rest for the wicked. Still drying off last night’s sweat, the Knicks added to their frequent flyer miles today with a jaunt to Denver to face the Nuggets (29-24)

In December, Denver won their first meeting of the season, 113-99. Julius Randle led the Knicks with 24 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists. 2020’s MVP Nikola Jokić barely got winded, totaling 32 points 11 boards, and five dimes in 27 minutes. The Knicks never held a lead and were down by as many as 30 points in that stinker.

On Sunday, the Nuggets thrashed the Nets 124-104. They sit sixth in the Western Conference, are 6-4 over their last 10 games, have the eighth-ranked offense and the 16th-ranked defense. They deserve respect. The Knicks are certainly flawed and deserving of derision after losing nine of their last 11, but they have shown flashes of competency lately, under the leadership of a maturing RJ Barrett. The team today is (marginally) better than the squad that took the hardwood last December. Have they improved enough to defeat Denver?

Tip-off’s at 9 p.m., pick slingers.

PROJECTED STARTERS

In his fifth NBA campaign, Monte Morris (6’2”, 183 lbs) has averaged 12.8 points, three rebounds, and 4.3 assists, all career-bests. The Iowa State alum is shooting 48% from the field, 37% from the perimeter. His defense is nothing to worry about, but neither is Kemba Walker, who will face him on the Knicks’ side.

Will Barton (6’6”, 181 lbs) is averaging 15.5 points and 4.9 rebounds in his 10th season. The People’s Champ is shooting 44% from the field, 37% from deep. He’ll face off against Evan Fournier, who finished with 16 points and shot 4-for-8 from deep in Utah last night but looked lost again.

Aaron Gordon (6’8”, 235 lbs) has averaged 14.6 points and 5.6 rebounds. In his eighth season. The fourth selection in the 2014 draft is shooting 52% from the field, his highest percentage yet. Most of his shots are either right at the rim or from downtown, where he’s shooting 33%. His opponent, RJ Barrett, notched only 13 points and four rebounds in their last confrontation. The current iteration of RJ is beast-mode unlocked, so wager on the Canadian to do some damage in this one.

Journeyman Jeff Green (6’8”, 235 lbs) has played for 12 teams in his career. In his 14th season, his first with the Nuggets, Jeff has averaged 10.3 points and 3.1 rebounds. A motivated Julius Randle should win this match-up. He left Utah with a 30/6/5 slashline last night.

Jokić (6’11”, 284 lbs) leads the team in points per game (25.9), rebounds (13.7), assists (7.9), steals (1.4), blocks (0.7), minutes (33), FGA (17.1), FG% (58%), and turnovers (3.6). He’s all over the NBA leaderboard in all the important categories, too. Joker is the axis upon which Denver spins, providing most of their offense and their best defense. Mitchell Robinson collected only four points and six rebounds in their last meeting. Guess he overdid it because he’s out tonight, as is Nerlens Noel.

I guess that means it’s up to Taj Gibson and Jericho Sims to control Joker. Sigh,

PREDICTION

The Nuggets swept their series with the Knicks last season, and naysayers predict they will again this year. Well, nay to the nay, I say, let’s not give up on our jetlagged heroes. Sure, ESPN.com gives the Omelets an 83% chance in this one, but this is a reachable game for New York if they find a way to neutralize the gravitational pull of Denver’s mighty Serb (a tough task with both Robinson and Noel sidelined). When they last met, the Knicks shot an awful 40% from the field and 30% from the perimeter. Don’t count on them being that cold again tonight. Prediction: Knicks by -9.

Ball Arena. Tuesday. 9 p.m. Dunk these Nuggets in BBQ sauce, Knicks!