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Nikola Jokic shines on the big stage, Nuggets drop Knicks 131-123

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Who needs defense when you have Jokic on your team?

NBA: Denver Nuggets at New York Knicks Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Amidst the negative story lines surrounding the New York Knicks and Madison Square Garden, one would think that the Charles Oakley saga would played the main role in tonight’s game. Not so. Nikola Jokic came into the Big Apple and in what ended up being a duel with Carmelo Anthony, Jokic prevailed with a new career-high of 40 points as the Nuggets completed the season sweep of New York.

The game quickly turned into a shootout with no defense required, with Courtney Lee and Kristaps Porzingis each hitting from deep for New York while Darrell Arthur and Jameer Nelson countered for Denver. Wilson Chandler was aggressive early with six quick points, but for every Nuggets basket the Knicks were right there. Denver’s offense was humming as Nikola Jokic facilitated beautifully throughout the frame. At one point, the Nuggets made 10 consecutive shots, including a nice three by Juancho Hernangomez, but it wasn’t enough to pull away from Lee (12 pts) and New York. After one, it was 34-32 Denver.

The Knicks bench unit came on and went on a 18-5 run across the final minutes of the first and into the second quarter. Denver’s second unit was abysmal, particularly on defense, as guys like Kyle O’Quinn, Justin Holiday and Ron Baker got buckets almost at will. New York extended the lead to 12, but the lack of defense was a theme throughout the night. Jokic came back in and went on a solo run of seven points to bring Denver back within one. Carmelo and the Knicks wouldn’t have any of it, going back up by eight, but a late three by Harris cut the deficit to two. At half, New York led 66-64.

The Nuggets took the lead early in the third quarter off of two quick Jokic jumpers and their first fast break points of the game by Gary Harris. From there, Jokic caught absolute fire and the Nuggets would never look back. The Joker did it all - layups, threes, assists, rebounds, a steal... Denver brought the lead up to double digits thanks to the offensive explosion and some surprisingly tight defense, and finished the frame up by 12. Jokic had 18 points in the third, almost outscoring the entire Knicks team in that time.

Denver never let up off the gas in the fourth, as the bench unit led by Will Barton and Hernangomez got the job done. Kyle O’Quinn and Carmelo tried to bring New York within striking distance, but Jokic came back in to help extend the lead and muscling his way to a new career high. The Knicks never gave up, as Carmelo caught the Jokic contagion to the tune of five three-pointers and 21 points in the fourth to keep New York in single digits.

Melo was unbelievable in the fourth, but for every Knick basket the Nuggets had an answer whether it be Harris, Chandler or even Nelson (minus two awful, horrible, terrible turnovers). Carmelo’s vengeance wouldn’t prevail in the end though, as Denver put New York out of its misery to win 131-123.

Game Notes and Thoughts

  • Jokic > Porzingis, and it’s not really that close. He outplayed him badly tonight. 17 of 23 shooting, 40 points, nine rebounds, five assists, two steals. Zinger had 17 points, four rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block. Jokic owned him. Oh, and in head-to-head matchups? Jokic 4, Zinger 0.
  • I might be in a minority here, but I love watching Carmelo Anthony play. He’s still every bit dangerous at shooting as he was when he was in a Nuggets uniform so many years ago, and seeing him light it up in the fourth was pretty cool.
  • Surprise of the night: Kyle O’Quinn. Off the bench, the Knicks center shot 8 of 9 from the field for 16 points, six rebounds, three assists and four blocks, including a monster one on Jusuf Nurkic. He was a big reason New York’s secondary unit outplayed Denver’s and gave them the lead early on.
  • Other surprise of the night: Willy Hernangomez pronounces his name “Billy”. Nonetheless, he’s going to be a good player in this league. He hustled hard off the bench, had some great post ups on Jokic, and finished with 12 points on 6 of 7 shooting. Juancho finished with eight.
  • If you haven’t purchased a “Magic Jokic” t-shirt yet, freaking do it already!
  • Boos and chants directed towards Knick’s owner James Dolan rained down after the game, and rightfully so. A city with so much history in basketball and as a franchise deserves better than everything that is going on over there right now.