They say home is where the heart is.
But the New York Knicks never found their heart in another dispiriting loss at home.
On Sunday night, the Denver Nuggets’ superior talent not only overwhelmed but also outworked the Knicks in a 114-89 drubbing at The Garden.
The magic of the Knicks’ strong start to the season is starting to fade as they looked lethargic for the second straight game.
Despite losing to the Oklahoma City Thunder last Friday, the Knicks entered Sunday night’s game third in opponent field goal percentage (43.4%) and second in opponent 3-point field goal percentage (30.1%).
That vaunted defense, which propelled them to a 5-3 start, was missing at home.
They looked tired and disengaged.
There was nothing they could do with the Nuggets firing on all cylinders. Denver shot 53.6 percent overall and 42.9 percent from deep.
Nikola Jokic led six Nuggets in double figures. The Serbian big man had 22 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists in 30 minutes.
In contrast, the Knicks’ offense continued to sputter. It was the second straight game they put up only 89 points. It would have been acceptable if this was in the grind-it-out 90s.
Nuggets’ coach Mike Malone, who came from the same Jeff Van Gundy/Don Chaney coaching tree as Tom Thibodeau, threw the Knicks off rhythm with a combination of zone and sticky man-to-man defenses.
After a Julius Randle three-pointer put the Knicks ahead briefly, 16-14, the Nuggets countered with a 7-0 run. And they were never seriously threatened the rest of the way.
Randle and Mitchell Robinson were the only Knicks players who shot above 50 percent.
Randle pumped in 29 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists before sitting out for good in the final 6:56. His fourth assist of the night enabled him to join Oscar Robertson as the only two players in NBA history to record at least 200 points, 115 rebounds, and 70 assists in their team’s first 10 games of the season.
Another silver lining for the Knicks was Robinson, who had zero foul in 38 minutes. The young Knicks’ center had 11 points on a perfect 5-of-5 from the field.
It was just hard to watch the rest of the team, except perhaps an Elfrid Payton scoring outburst in one brief stretch in the third quarter.
Payton finished with 12 points on 4-of-10 shooting and five assists. RJ Barrett continued to plummet. He bled for nine points on 13 shots. It marked the second time this season that he’s been held to single-digit scoring.
The Knicks drew little production from their bench. The Nuggets bench badly outscored them, 54-21.
Immanuel Quickley has officially hit the rookie wall with another dud (4 points, 0-4 field goals). Austin Rivers and Kevin Knox could only muster identical six points on 2-of-6 shooting.
The Knicks, as a whole, could only connect on 42.3 percent of their shots. They were a disheartening 6-for-21 from three.
“The challenge right now is we’re not playing well. We’ve got to fix it. We’re in it together. We have to get out of it together,” Thibodeau said postgame.
They barely have 24 hours to figure out everything as they next face the streaking Charlotte Hornets Monday on the road.
The Hornets have won their last three games with Gordon Hayward rediscovering his old All-Star form while third overall pick LaMelo Ball is finally settling down. Ball just became the youngest player in the league history to log in a triple-double in their Saturday win over the Atlanta Hawks.
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