Tonight's Knicks-at-Nuggets game was played on November 16th. Last season's was played on November 27th.
Tonight's game lasted two hours, 31 minutes. Last season's lasted two hours, 25 minutes.
Tonight's game saw a combined score of 238 points. Last season's combined score was 253.
All that was missing was a 50-point game from Carmelo Anthony and a 41-point game from Al Harrington. They combined for just 48 tonight.
Like last season's affair, the Nuggets let the Knicks score way too many points in the fourth quarter (36 tonight, 38 last season) and allowed a walkover victory to become an unnecessary down-to-the-wire contest. Do the Nuggets, playing the second of a back-to-back, get a pass? Does it matter? After all, a win is a win, right? I'll let the fans debate this.
The Nuggets ultimately won this game for the same reason that many Knicks opponents win games against this six-straight-losses team: the Knicks couldn't shoot straight throughout the overall course of the game. Forgetting for a moment the big shots the Knicks made down the stretch during desperation time, they finished the game shooting 43.9% from the field and a disastrous 29% from three-point range, even though they attempted more than twice as many three's as the Nuggets (31 to 14).
Of course, Carmelo Anthony's late game, head band throwing tantrum and jump ball foul didn't help matters and allowed the Knicks to get uncomfortably close. But despite Melo's brief Paul Pierce/Kenyon Martin impersonation, you never got the sense that the Nuggets were going to lose this game. Moreover, Melo finally did the one thing he hasn't done well all season: get to the free throw line. Entering tonight's contest, Melo was averaging an inexcusably low five-and-a-half free throw attempts per game (by comparison, Kevin Durant averages over nine, LeBron James almost 10, Amar'e Stoudemire over seven and Kobe Bryant eight) but attempted to make up for it by attempting a season-high 14 free throws. He didn't have a great game, but I'll take 14 free throw attempts any day.
Beyond the Knicks shooting woes, this game was won thanks to the Nuggets bench. The former Knick Harrington punished his old squad with 22 points off the pine while former nobody Gary Forbes finished with 19 points (on a very solid 8-13 shooting) and nine boards. And Ty Lawson's stat line might not look impressive, but his minimal contribution all came at the same time - and at the right time - towards the game's end. Comparatively, the Knicks bench mustered just 33 points with 23 of those accounted by Wilson Chandler who essentially played starter's minutes.
Curiously, J.R. Smith was basically handed a second straight DNP-CD by Nuggets head coach George Karl by getting a mere minute (that's right, one minute) of playing time. I don't feel bad for J.R., but I do feel bad for anyone who started him on their fantasy team tonight. I don't know how many more times I can write that J.R.'s nine lives seem to be up in Denver, but they clearly are in the eyes of his head coach. Fortunately for Karl, Forbes was able to fill in at backup shooting guard. But can Forbes produce like this consistently?
Many will ask if this game will prove to be the last time Carmelo Anthony plays against the Knicks. Considering the Nuggets play at New York on December 12th, you can count on that question coming up at least one more time.
Non-Stiff(s) of the Night
-Harrington and Forbes: Putting those two names together sounds like the formation of an ambulance-chasing law firm. But you have to give these bench players credit for taking down the Knicks who had a full day's rest whereas the Nuggets had none.
Stiff(s) of the Night
-Timofey Mozgov and Danilo Gallinari: The Knicks' European imports, Mozgov (Russia) and Gallinari (Italy) came up empty. Movgoz had more personal fouls (four) than points, rebounds and blocks combined. And Gallinari's 6-19 shooting night (2-10 from three) set the Knicks chances of trading him for Melo back by several months.
A win is a win, but Karl and the Nuggets coaching staff can't be happy about allowing the Knicks to score 118 points and 36 in the fourth quarter alone.