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Preview: Nuggets look to bounce back against New York Knicks

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Jokic vs Porzingis... who you got?

NBA: New York Knicks at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Following a disappointing defensive effort against Atlanta on Wednesday night, the Nuggets are now in New York for their second match up of the season with the Knickerbockers. Of course, the Knicks and Nuggets have history with the whole Carmelo Anthony thing and what not, but that narrative has been beaten to death time and time again in the six years since the blockbuster trade occurred.

Times have changed. With the advent of Nikola Jokic and Kristaps Porzingis, Carmelo isn’t even relevant to this “rivalry” anymore. These two franchises are headed in opposite directions, and if Melo is lucky the Knicks will trade him (with his permission) by the February 23 deadline. The Nuggets have struggles of their own as an onslaught of injuries and inconsistency on the defensive end of the court keeps haunting them, but they remain in playoff contention nonetheless. This is the point of the season where every win or loss really starts to affect the standings, and with two hot dates against Cleveland and Golden State on the horizon, a win tonight would go a long way.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (23-29) at New York Knicks (22-32)

When: 5:30 PM MST

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York NY

How to watch: Altitude

Rival blog: Posting and Toasting

Position Nuggets Knicks Advantage
PG Jameer Nelson Derrick Rose Knicks
SG Gary Harris Courtney Lee Even
SF Will Barton Carmelo Anthony Knicks
PF Wilson Chandler Kristaps Porzingis Knicks
C Nikola Jokic Kyle O'Quinn Nuggets
Reserves Juancho Hernangomez, Jamal Murray, Darrell Arthur, Jusuf Nurkic Willy Hernangomez, Brandon Jennings, Justin Holiday, Mindaugas Kuzminskas Nuggets

Injury Report: Emmanuel Mudiay - out (back), Kenneth Faried - out (ankle), Danilo Gallinari - out (groin), Joakim Noah - doubtful (hamstring), Lance Thomas - doubtful (orbital fracture)

Key Matchup: Nikola Jokic vs. Kristaps Porzingis

The similarities and differences between these two are extremely interesting. One is from Latvia, the other from Serbia. One was a lottery pick, the other was selected 41st overall in the second round. One was second in Rookie of the Year voting, the other was third. One is an athletic savant who has immeasurable offensive skill, the other a passing wizard with a silky soft touch around the rim. Both are future cornerstones of their respective franchises.

Tonight we get to witness Jokic vs. Porzingis for just the fourth time. In the last meeting played in December, Jokic “only” had 10 points, five rebounds and nine beautiful assists, but it was enough to generate the win. Even though Porzingis is technically a power forward and Jokic a center, all eyes will be on these two. As the Zinger (that’s his nickname, right?) has developed into a star player, the New York offense has transformed from whatever variation of the triangle it was pretending to be to one centered around him. Defending all 7’3 of him is no easy task.

What to watch for: Juancho and Willy Hernangomez

It’s such a feel good story. Two brothers grow up in Spain with a love for basketball knowing the chances of making the NBA are slim. One gets drafted in 2015, the other in 2016 and together they come over to America to realize their dream. The first opportunity Juancho and Willy had to play against each other came in December, but that night failed to live up to hype as Juancho only played two minutes compared to Willy’s 28. With Gallinari injured, however, Juancho will get more playing time tonight and the Hernangomez family and Spanish basketball fans can enjoy a rare and special moment. Sports are the best.

Prediction

Charles Oakley and James Dolan square off in a TLC match for the halftime show. Just as it looks like Dolan is about to lose, Phil Jackson tries to sneak up on Oakley with a chair but the big man turns around just in time and counters with a tombstone piledriver. Somewhere off in the distance, the Undertaker’s eyes roll back in his head in delight. America wins, and the Nuggets outscore the Knicks in the meantime.