The New York Knicks are coming off consecutive losses to the Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls, giving up 110+ points in each. Despite resilient efforts, forward Julius Randle was unable to close out the games, forfeiting an ill-advised technical foul with seconds left against Brooklyn and turning the ball over on one of the Knicks’ final possessions to give the game away Vs Chicago.
Unfortunately, New York hasnâ€™t been able to come out on the better side the last two games, but they are preparing to face off against a struggling Denver Nuggets team.
Denver has lost seven of their last eight contests, including their most recent against Orlando Magic, arguably the worst team in basketball. The Knicks also dropped two games to Orlando this year, showcasing volatile inconsistencies. However, Denver is one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the league, landing at 21st at 33.3%. They also hover around average in three-point attempts per game, ranking 29th in rebounds and 10th in assists.
Looking specifically at Denver’s defense, they rank 29th in both steals and blocks, showcasing the 16th best defensive rating in basketball. The Knicks currently sit at 19th, an abysmal number that head coach Tom Thibodeau is undoubtedly livid about. That played a significant part in the benching of Kemba Walker, but the Knicksâ€™ defense still hasnâ€™t provided that extra bit of gusto to push them over the edge.
Unfortunately, both guard RJ Barrett and center Mitchell Robinson have been dealing with non-Covid related illnesses the past few days, which has impacted their play. Hopefully, the pair will be fully healthy against the Nuggets, in a game, they can turn things around. The Nuggets will likely be without guards Bones Hyland and Austin Rivers after both were placed on the 10-day Covid protocol on Wednesday.
Fortunately for the Knicks, Denver’s starting team represents the bulk of their talent, with near nonexistent depth. Denver’s best players are Nikola Jokic at center, averaging 25.7 points, Will Barton at small forward, earning 16.1 points, and Aaron Gordon, whoâ€™s posting 14 points per game. If they can limit their interior presence, the Knicks should have an easy path to victory if they shoot well from the perimeter.
If both Robinson and Nerlens Noel are able to play, clogging the interior and communicating on switches will be the key to limiting the Nuggets. The Knicks cannot have another problematic start to a game, after finding themselves in a 21-point deficit to close the first half against Chicago on Thursday night. While they fought back with resiliency, consistency is key, especially down the stretch when that last bit of energy is needed.