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Preview: A shell of the Knicks stumble into Denver

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A preview of tonight's game between the New York Knicks and the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets look to get a win against the struggling Knicks before the schedule takes a turn for the worse.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Game 63: 2014-15 NBA Season

New York Knicks logo

@

Denver Nuggets logo

12-49 (4-26 on road)
Series 0-1
22-44 (13-19 at home)
March 9th, 2015
Pepsi Center - Denver, CO
7:00 PM MT
Altitude / 104.3 FM

Langston Galloway PG Ty Lawson
Tim Hardaway Jr. SG Randy Foye
Cleanthony Early SF Danilo Gallinari
Jason Smith PF Wilson Chandler
Andrea Bargnani C Kenneth Faried
Notes
Posting and Toasting Blogs Denver Stiffs
Carmelo Anthony (out) - Knee
Jose Calderon (out) - Achilles
Lou Amundson (questionable) - Back Spasms
Injuries Jusuf Nurkic (out) - Ankle
Darrell Arthur (questionable) - Knee
The Knicks have lost six straight at Pepsi Center. Etc... Gallo has scored in double figures in each of his last 10 games

Is it possible to have a must-win game when you are 22-41?  If so, tonight is a must-win for the Denver Nuggets.  Following a week of inspired efforts under interim head coach Melvin Hunt, the Nuggets enter Monday's matchup with the New York Knicks in a 2-game losing streak with games against some of the leagues best team's on the horizon.  The schedule after tonight's game is so brutal that it might be the most difficult 7-game stretch of the season.  With home games against the Hawks and Warriors, and then a five-game road trip that features match-ups against the Grizzlies, Pelicans and Rockets, the honeymoon phase with Hunt could easily come to a screeching halt.

Hence the importance of tonight's home matchup with the team that holds the league's worst record.  The Knicks enter tonight's game 0-10 on the road against Western Conference teams and just 4-26 on the road overall. They have the distinction of holding the league's worst road record AND worst home record. What's worse, after losing players to injuries and trades, their roster could make their very own episode of "Who He Play For?" Just look at the photos of their roster below.  Without cheating, can you name all of them?

Knicks Roster

If you struggled with this pop quiz, don't feel bad.  Two of them were undrafted, and only one of them has over 750 minutes played in the NBA. For the record, from left to right they are Langston Galloway, Cleanthony Eearly, Shane Larkin, and Travis Wear.

That's not to say that these guys aren't talented or that this group of young players lacks potential, but they are far from polished and the fact that they are each getting significant minutes over the last few games demonstrates the state of this team at the moment.  Andrea Bargnani, drafted in 2007, is the team's most senior member and has led the team in scoring five out of their last six games.

What to expect

The game should be a style fight, and one that the Nuggets should win handedly.  The Nuggets have averaged 17.5 fast break points per game in their last 4 games, good for 5th in the league during that time frame.  They have also scored 19.5 points per game off of turnovers, good for 7th.  The Knicks, on the other hand, have been toward the bottom of the league in points allowed on fast breaks and off of turnovers over that same stretch, ranking 24th and 28th respectively.  Then there is pace.  The Knicks prefer a slow paced game, especially given their depleted bench.  The Nuggets have been playing at a blistering pace over the last four games and I suspect this will be a game where the altitude will be a big advantage.

The Knicks are also weak in the one area that can really hurt this Nuggets team; down low on the block.  With the injury to Jusuf Nurkic, the Nuggets don't have a true center on the roster.  Thankfully, the Knicks are in the same boat, relying on Cole Aldrich and Colorado native Jason Smith inside, neither of which are considered dominant down low. Without a low post player to slow things down and punish the Nuggets inside, I expect that the Nuggets will put on a show at Pepsi Center, racing out to a high scoring win.  Look for the Nuggets to continue to fly around and play with positive energy and to play inspired basketball.  It will be good for the Melvin Hunt honeymoon to last one more night before the brutal upcoming schedule gives the team and the coach their biggest challenge to date.