The Denver Nuggets are 3-3, and the season so far has been a tale of two Nuggets teams. First, the defensive minded, offensively inept group of the first four games. Denver went 1-3 during this stretch with it’s only win in the home opener against the Sacramento Kings. Other than that, the team was a mess on the offensive end of the floor.
The last two games have flipped the script. Denver scored 105 points against the Atlanta Hawks last Friday night in an ugly win on the road, yet a win is a win. Against the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday night, Denver put up 124 points in a solid win. 60 points in the first half, and 64 points in the second half.
Now, Denver will be tested in a different way. The last game of their four game road trip is a swing game on a back-to-back. If they win, they will have gone 3-1 on the road after starting the season 1-2. If they lose, they will fall below .500 against the easiest part of the entire 82 game schedule, raising more questions than answers.
What better way to test the Nuggets than against the New York Knicks and Kristaps Porzingis at Madison Square Garden?
Who: Denver Nuggets (3-3) at New York Knicks (2-3)
When: Monday, October 30 at 5:30 PM MST
Where: Madison Square Garden in New York, NY
How to watch: Altitude
Rival blog: Posting and Toasting
Injury report: DEN: Juancho Hernangomez (mono - out). NYK: Ron Baker (ankle - questionable), Joakim Noah (suspension - out)
What to Watch:
Which Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay show up tonight? Last night, Jamal Murray had what I consider to be the best game of his young career. 26 points on just 14 shots with eight free throw attempts. He also generated five assists. Murray was efficient, effective, and aggressive, a +32 in the plus/minus department on the basketball court.
Mudiay has had an excellent two-game stretch off the bench, posting 16 points and four assists against the Hawks, as well as 15 points and 5 assists against the Nets. He has been very up and down during the first six games, but the last two games have shown the upside of the 21-year-old off the bench.
The New York Knicks employ the worst point guard rotation in the NBA. If you think Denver’s can struggle, the Knicks have started Ramon Sessions and Jarrett Jack at the 1 to start the year. Off the bench have been Ron Baker and Frank Ntilikina so far. Denver’s young PGs have to win their individual match ups tonight.
Will Nikola Jokic provide some resistance inside? So far, Jokic’s defense has been improved, yet still sub par. It’s hard to be the centerpiece offensively and be a plus defender. Ask Karl-Anthony Towns. For Jokic, it’s about providing constant effort. He will always have physical limitations with bad agility and even worse lift when jumping, but he can control being in position to at least put up a fight. He has done a better job with that.
The Knicks employ two bigs that will probably feast inside. Enes Kanter gave Jokic issues on the interiors against the Oklahoma City Thunder for the last two years. Now, he’s on the Knicks and averaging an absurd 4.8 offensive rebounds in just 25.0 minutes. His field goal percentage is 60.8%, meaning that if he gets the rebound, he’s probably going to score. This doesn’t even mention Kristaps Porzingis, who’s averaging 27.6 points a night, albeit on poor efficiency from beyond the arc. His 2-point percentage is better, and that will be an issue for Jokic.
Paul Millsap will help provide some resistance, but in the end, Jokic has been the last line of defense, especially on the defensive glass. Jokic is averaging an absurd 11.7 rebounds per game, with 9.7 defensive rebounds to boot. He may need to grab even more tonight for the Nuggets to have a necessary advantage.
Will the Nuggets make shots on a back-to-back? The Knicks are coming off a huge win against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Cleveland. The Nuggets are coming off a huge win against the Nets in Brooklyn. This will be the first back-to-back for both squads, and there will be tired legs, especially for the Nuggets at the end of a road trip.
In these games, the outcome usually comes down to which team hits their open shots. Both teams will generate these looks, regardless of the defensive quality. Mental mistakes happen, and the Nuggets need to be the team to take advantage if they want to come out victorious.