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Knicks 122, Nuggets 84: “Joker taking Ls in Gotham”

New York is getting there—for real this time.

Denver Nuggets v New York Knicks Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Just a couple of days before you opened your Christmas presents in 2017, the Denver Nuggets won a basketball game, 96-81, bringing their regular-season record to 18-15 and putting the reigning champions Golden State Warriors to the sword.

That team was still years away from winning a championship. The win was more about who they defeated rather than who they were. Those Dubs were missing Steph Curry that particular day, but they had prime Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson playing 33+ minutes each.

The Nuggets put the clamps on a squad that was 26-7 then and that would end the season with a 58-24 record and winning the Larry O’B for the second time in as many years and the third in four campaigns (and the season in which they failed, they still became the best regular-season team ever thanks to a bonkers 73-9 record).

The New York Knicks won a basketball game, 122-84, bringing their regular-season record to 28-17 and putting the reigning champions Denver Nuggets to the sword.

This team might or might not be still years away from winning a championship. Thursday’s win is more about who the Knicks defeated rather than who they are. These Nuggets entered MSG facing the challenge of playing the final matchup of a five-game road trip. Two-time MVP Nikola Jokic started the game. Jamal Murray started the game. Aaron Gordon, Michael Porter Jr., and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope started the game. None of them topped 30 minutes. The reason? New York had run them all the hell out of the gym by the time the ball rolled in the fourth and final quarter.

The Nuggets won the Larry O’B making it look ridiculously easy last season. It was written on the wall and just a matter of time—only a bunch of bad injury-luck prevented Denver from reaching higher highs earlier than they did.

Muruju recapped the game with a Hollywoodian headline: “Joker taking Ls in Gotham.”

We might have watched just the nth chapter of an Emmy-bound season for the ages. Or we might be wrong, and this is only just another season of an all-time great show with plenty (the best, including its grand finale) yet to unfold.

What we witnessed on Jan. 25 taking place inside MSG, however, will be hard to top. Watching the game was beautiful to the eye and peeping at the box score will do wonders for your brain. Go ahead and check both of them.

All Knicks on the starting five (which included Jalen Brunson—wink, wink) posted figures in the 20+ under the plus/minus column, including OG Anunoby’s game-high, career second-best +38 in just 29 minutes of play.

Four of them scored at least 16 points and the whole squad, starters and reserves, was good to shoot 53% from the field and more than 39% from three on 85 and 38 respective attempts.

After Precious Achiuwa and Josh Hart got most of the attention of late among players coming off the Knicks bench in recent games, it was the turn for Deuce McBride and Quentin Grimes to excel yesterday: the former bagged 13 points (4-of-5 from range) and the latter bounced back to a 19-point outing shooting 7-11 from the field.

Oh, and a certain little man-machine by the name of Jericho Sims only dumped a bucket on the Nuggets but pulled down eight boards and dealt reasonably well with the Joker. Not bad, Young Hercules!

The impact of OG Anunoby on this team following a franchise-altering Dec. 30 trade last year is undeniable. So much so that it’s starting to get dangerously close for athletes-turned-media-folks out there saying the Knicks this, the Knicks that, but always for the bad to sound like plain simpletons.

New York is 28-17 on the season. The Knicks are 11-2 since pulling off the OG Anunoby trade. All you’ll hear if you listen to the soundbites popping up daily in your feed is that NYK might be 20-1 against sub-.500 teams but always struggling against the best team in the league.

They lost to the Celtics on opening night. They dropped back-to-back games to the Cavs and the Bucks. They lost once more to the Leprechauns, then again against the Wolves, dropped their third and second meetings with Boston and Milwaukee, got trounced by the LA Clippers, couldn’t handle the Bucks before Christmas, lost to the upcoming Obi Toppin’s Pacers and the Luka-less Mavs... What a disgrace of a squad!

Beach, please.

Only the Suns (seven straight) are riding a longer game-winning streak than the Knicks’ five.

No team in the league has a better record in the last ten games (8-2) than the Knicks, let alone a better one from New Year on (11-2).

The Knicks offense might not be anything to call home about, but they’re doing enough to navigate the bucket economy of the 2024 NBA. The Knicks defense—uh, boy—leads the league with a DRtg of 103.3 in January and since the OG advent.

More ridiculous? The Knicks are grabbing the largest share of rebounds available (55.6%) this month not having Mitchell Robinson and missing Isiah Hartenstein for the last two outings.

“We’re a really talented team and we went out and we showed that tonight,” Anunoby said after the game.

“We definitely played well,” Brunson said. “Give us credit on how we played today.”

This is the best New York team put together since the version of the 1990s. Disappointingly, that run ended in a sad collapse. Our boys might be a year or three away, who knows in this new Parity Era NBA, but you bet they’re getting there.

What a time to be alive.