Studs and Duds: Knicks run out of steam vs Nuggets

Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) controls the ball under pressure from New York Knicks guard Alec Burks (18) and guard Miles McBride (2) as center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) defends in the fourth quarter at Ball Arena
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

A successful four-game road trip showed positive signs as the New York Knicks finished 3-1. The defending champion Denver Nuggets, led by Nikola Jokic, had a counter for New York’s attacks. Jalen Brunson led the way with a tightly contested game until the end without Julius Randle, OG Anunoby, and Mitchell Robinson. Ultimately, the Knicks fell short, losing the game with a final score of 113–100.

Studs: Isaiah Hartenstein vs Nikola Jokic 

The reigning NBA Champion Nikola Jokic casually strolled into a 30-point triple-double against the New York Knicks. Reading the stat sheet, one may assume it was light work for Jokic, but with the remarkable performance from Isaiah Hartenstein, the Joker put on a show.

Delivering on all levels, Hartenstein scored 20 points, eight rebounds, and three assists. A strong and-one dunk over MPJ turned the volume down inside of the Ball Arena, and Hartenstein went to work not shying away from Nikola Jokic. Adding one steal and two blocks for Hartenstein, the whole arsenal was on display for the Knick’s big man.

Studs: Alec Burks wants to play 

Playing on the road, NBA teams require a player that never gets rattled. From high-stakes road games to the New York media, there may be no better player fit than Alec Burks. Against a hostile crowd in Sacramento, Burks scored 12 of 21 bench points to deliver a win for New York.

The Nuggets are on a different level, but Burks navigated untamed waters to score 18 points, with nine coming in the fourth quarter. This time, with no result in a win, the approach on the road from Burks may keep him in the rotation. Hostile road environments are what bring a level of intensity to the NBA Playoffs.

Burks’s 18 points may seem insignificant now, but in the third game of the second round, that line in a win would have New York media singing his praises. Seeing consistency from Burks is the next step, but slow motion is better than no motion. 

Studs: Jalen Brunson carries the load 

Expecting a superhero performance from Brunson every marquee game is naive of Knicks fans, but Brunson has been playing to a superstar tune all season. Averaging 40 over his past three contests, Brunson dropped 26 points and nine assists against Denver.

No matter the coverage, Brunson found his way to the rim and midrange as New York had a five-point lead over Denver in the second quarter. Brunson is now sixth in the NBA in points per game while averaging 26.5 points per game in March. Leading New York successfully without a consistent rotation has put Brunson in conversations as a late-season MVP candidate.

The New York Knicks are 6-3 in March with wins over the Magic, 76ers, and Cavaliers. Being ‘priority one’ for the Nuggets defense meant multiple defenders but more open looks for Knicks teammates. Unfortunately, Brunson was only one of the three Villanova stars to rise to the occasion in Denver.

Duds: DiVincenzo and Hart strikeout 

Josh Hart and Donte DiVincenzo have maximized their roles better than any players in the league. DiVincenzo is ranked top-five in three-pointers made, while Josh Hart was coming off a stretch of five straight 10+ rebound games.

Against the Nuggets, Josh Hart scored two points and three rebounds on 1/5 shooting, and Donte DiVincenzo had 11 points on 36% from the field. The performances from both players this season allow for this game to be a distant memory, but still a sign of how opposing teams with lengthy wings will give the Knicks a hard time without Randle and Anunoby.

Takeaways from the Knicks’ loss to the Nuggets 

A strong showing from the shorthanded Knicks on this occasion. Miles McBride and Precious Achiuwa had strong showings as well but ultimately the execution from Denver was championship-level down the stretch.

Winning this game would’ve given New York a five-game winning streak and flipped the conversation considerably on what the outcome of this season could be. That’s how good the Denver Nuggets and Nikola Jokic have been.

The Knicks have a two-game home stand against the Brooklyn Nets and Detroit Pistons. Aiming for a third seed for the playoffs keeps New York hungry but regaining and maintaining the fourth spot spells success for the New York Knicks this season. 

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