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Scenes from a wire-to-wire devastation of the defending champs

Knicks 122, Nuggets 84: OG Anunoby scores his most yet as a Knick and grabs six steals, and the Knicks bench outscores their Denver counterparts, 40-22.

Denver Nuggets v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

In a stunning victory, the New York Knicks (28-17) dominated the defending champion Denver Nuggets (31-15) from wire-to-wire tonight at Madison Square Garden tonight. Led by Nikola Jokić, and playing the last of a five-game road trip, the Nuggets looked completely outmatched by the Knickerbockers, committed 19 turnovers, and suffered their most humiliating loss since 2015.

Lawdy, OG Anunoby was a force. He finished the game with his most points yet as a Knick, 26, and thefted six steals while shooting 10-of-18 from the floor and committing only one turnover and two fouls. He logged a plus/minus of +38, the second-highest of his career. (Each Knicks’ starter was a +20 or better tonight.)

The bench shined, too. Quentin Grimes contributed 19 points and Deuce McBride shot nearly perfectly from downtown, making four of five triple attempts. They led a second unit that outscored Denver’s reserves, 40-22.

Great defense and great contributions from top to bottom resulted in an almost flawless game. The Knicks win their fifth in a row. Final score, 122-84.

First Half

The Knicks stunned the Nuggets in the first quarter, jumping out to a 16-point lead thanks to 60% shooting from the floor, 50% from downtown, and 100% from the line. Denver made only nine of their 26 first-quarter field goal attempts and found themselves behind, 33-21. That was Denver’s biggest first quarter deficit of the season.

Hats off to Jericho Sims, filling in for Isaiah Hartenstein and taking on one of the toughest assignments in the association. Sims would finish with eight rebounds in 25 minutes.

The Nuggets hung around through the early minutes of the second quarter, but an electrifying sequence—a Precious Achiuwa O-Board, a Miles McBride triple, an Achiuwa block, and a Quentin Grimes pull-up trey, and an OG Anunoby pick-six—gave the Knicks their largest lead yet, 19 points. Denver had no answer for New York’s superb ball movement and interior penetration, some of their best distribution and pace of the season.

In the latter half of the second frame, Jokić caught an inadvertent eye-poke from Donte DiVincenzo. The big fella shot two squinty freebies before retreating to the locker room and, in his absence, back-to-back buckets (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Peyton Watson) trimmed the Knicks’ lead to 13 points.

Anunoby continues to be invaluable on both ends of the court. He logged a game-high +28 plus/minus rating in the first half.

One of the Knicks’ weaknesses since the Immanuel Quickley trade has been bench scoring, but in the first quarter tonight, they out-scored Denver’s reserves, 17-4. Thanks to a push at the end of the quarter, New York entered halftime 62-41.

The Nuggets never lead in the first half, and that was the fewest points scored by Denver in a half this season. Fantastic defense by New York tonight!

The Nuggets average 12.6 turnovers per contest but coughed up the ball nine times in the first half. New York converted those generous goofs into 14 points. The Knicks, who have had rashes of turnovers themselves of late, committed only five such offenses in the first 24 minutes. They had outshot the champs from the field (51%-39%) and downtown (43%-30%), and won the battles for fastbreak (12-2), paint (26-24), and second-chance (13-6) points.

One of New York’s most dominant halves of the season. Here’s your first-half shot chart:

Second Half

Coming out of intermission, New York poured more hot sauce on those Denver omelets. Around the 8:30 mark, Jalen Brunson completed an And-1 to attain a 25-point lead. A few minutes later, OG stole a Michael Porter, Jr. pass and hit Brunson with an outlet dish for an uncontested flush. Another minute passed, Joker committed a turnover, and Julius Randle pranced through traffic for a bucket. Another minute passed, and Josh Hart stole the ball from Jokic that he took all the way to the bank. A 31-point pile-on the reigning champs! Their largest deficit of the season. Around this time, Denver coach Mike Malone gave up coaching and spent the remainder of the quarter placing his Drizly order [Editor’s note: unconfirmed speculation].

New York finished the frame ahead, 98-66.

The fourth quarter saw Jokic retire to the locker early, and most of the Knicks’ starters took their rest on the pine. Denver’s bench spewed out DeAndre Jordan and Justin Holiday; New York’s sent in Ryan Arcidiacano and Malachi Flynn, but not Evan Fournier, who is kept under glass to guard against any potentially trade-nullifying injuries. By the time the final buzzer buzzed, Denver had racked up 19 turnovers and suffered their most devastating loss of the season.

How ridiculous did it get? So ridiculous that Randle’s kid got to hang out on the bench.

Up Next

Amazing win! Next up, the Knicks do battle with the other team that played in last season’s NBA Finals when the Miami Heat strut into MSG for a Saturday matinee. Sleep tight, Knickerbockers.

Box score.