Knicks vs. Nuggets preview: Carmelo Anthony's team struggling, Ty Lawson's squad gelling

Melo and Amar'e haven't teamed up the way they were supposed to. - Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks are always one good shooting night away from big things. The Nuggets must be mindful of the Knicks' danger zones and extend their own winning streak.

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Game 15: 2013-14 NBA Season
New York Knicks (1969 - 1976)
@

Denver Nuggets (1982 - 1993)

3-11 (2-5 away)
Series 0-0
8-6 (5-2 home)
November 29th, 2013
Pepsi Center - Denver, CO
7:00 p.m. MT
Altitude / 950 AM / 93.7 FM
Ray Felton PG Ty Lawson
Iman Shumpert SG Randy Foye
Carmelo Anthony SF Wilson Chandler
Kenyon Martin PF Kenneth Faried
Andrea Bargnani C J.J. Hickson
Notes
Posting and Toasting Blogs Denver Stiffs
Tyson Chandler (right fibula) is out Injuries Danilo Gallinari (ACL), JaVale McGee (stress fracture in leg) are both out
The Knicks are losers of seven straight Stat The Nuggets have won four in a row

It's going to be an interesting night at Pepsi Center. Of course the return of Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, and Kenyon Martin (and to an extent Ray Felton) will play a role in how the fans see tonight's contest and it will be very interesting to see how the crowd reacts to those three guys.

Clearly, the Nuggets have jumped out to a much better start than the Knicks. Denver started slowly at 0-3, but as rotations have become more clear and players have become more comfortable in the style being played - the team has responded by going 8-3 in their last 11 games. The Nuggets are also currently on a four game winning streak, with two of those wins coming on the road.

Have the Nuggets become more comfortable in a post-up offense? No ... well, maybe a little. Has Brian Shaw compromised on his style to fit the players on this team? No ... well, maybe a little. Since coming to Denver, Shaw has talked about wanting to still play fast, when necessary, and blending that with better half-court play on offense and a tougher defense that will be playoff ready. Shaw also talked about wanting to run more pick-and-roll early in the season and the team's offense has been running a plethora of plays to get open shots for various players. If the Nuggets do what they do - they should get a win tonight.

And that win will help the Nuggets in a couple of ways. The first being a win, duh! And the second being knocking the Knicks even further below .500 and thus perhaps helping Denver's chances at getting a better draft pick as they own New York's selection in the upcoming draft (Denver keeps either their pick or the Knicks' pick and send the worse one to Orlando as part of the Arron Afflalo trade). But all that draft talk is for fans and front offices that are keeping tabs on those things. I heavily doubt any player is considering draft prospects at this point in time or at any time.

The Knicks are currently in 14th place in the Eastern Conference out of 15 teams and only one game up on the 2-12 Milwaukee Bucks for the bottom feeder spot. On the flip side, the Knicks are only 2.5 games out of the final playoff seed out East with the 6-9 Detroit Pistons clinging on to that eighth spot. Yes, the East is still weak as four teams slated in "playoff position" are .500 or worse.

With Melo, J.R., Felton, Iman Shumpert, and newcomers Andrea Bargnani and Metta World Peace on board, the Knicks are always just one good shooting streak away from turning their fortunes around. But the Knicks know they are struggling. Takes these quotes from Melo on Posting and Toasting (via ESPN):

Carmelo Anthony:

"The easiest thing for us to do is just to crumble right now. We are in a dark place but we have to get out of this. We just have to get out of it."

"We're trying to figure it out together. We have to put four quarters together. We got to do it for one another. Right now the game is not fun for nobody. We're just not making it happen."

Mike Woodson is leaning heavily on his starters as all five guys listed in the above table played 24+ minutes against the Clippers on Nov. 27th. The bench mainly features J.R., who is averaging 31.3 minutes per game, Amar'e Stoudemire, 14.5 mpg, Metta World Peace, 19.8 mpg, and some sprinkles of Beno Udrih (forced into starting duty when Felton was out), Tim Hardaway Jr., and Pablo Prigioni.

Melo leads the way with 26.3 points per game on 22.3 shots per game. His numbers are down from last season as he's shooting just 42.6% (44.9% last year) and 30.9% from deep (37.9% last year and his three-point attempts are down from 6.2 to 3.9 per game). The team's second leading scorer has been Bargnani at 14.7 ppg on 46% shooting with 12.9 shots per game.

Finding consistent offense to go along with any sort of defense has been the Knicks' biggest issues. Their offensive rating of 100.8 is good for 24th in the NBA out of 30 teams and their defensive rating of 108.1 is good (or bad) for 29th out of 30 teams. The Nuggets' offensive rating is 107.4 (6th out of 30) and defensive rating is 105.8 (20th out of 30).

Woodson's squad has trouble defending the paint (no Tyson Chandler and bad help defense), defending the pick-and-roll (lots of lazy switching), and staying in front of guys. The Nuggets thrive at attacking the paint with drives and pick-and-roll play and Denver moves so much on offense that they take advantage of sloppy defensive rotations and of teams not committed to playing lock-down defense.

The Knicks are a mess, just take what George Karl recently said about them to Dave Kreiger:

Q: So what's the plan? Wait for the phone to ring?

A: There are days I wish it would ring and there are days I don't want it to ring. I mean, I watch the Knicks play and I wouldn't want to be in that hell for a million dollars. It's just New York City and the Garden and the immensity of the pressure. I think Mike Woodson is standing up to it with tremendous integrity.

Ouch.

The Nuggets need to roll in this one and they should roll ... if they remain focused.

Nate_Timmons on Twitter
ntimmons73@yahoo.com

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