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Preview: Nuggets find themselves in big game against Knicks

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The Nuggets take to the road for the first game of their East Coast trip, looking to snap a losing streak against the lowly Knicks.

Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Nuggets will look to bounce back after a close loss to the Lakers with a road game against the Knicks on Thursday night.

The Nuggets were unable to defeat the Lakers on their home court Tuesday, losing 105-96 in a game where they were close late, but couldn’t hold off Anthony Davis and LeBron James in the final minutes.

The loss dropped the Nuggets record to 13-5, which is still good for third in the Western Conference, behind the two Los Angeles teams. While their record puts them among the best teams in the conference, the Nuggets upcoming road trip will be a chance for the young team to prove that they truly belong in the conversation with them. Up until now, the team hasn’t had the chance to make that kind of a statement.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (13-5) vs New York Knicks (4-17)

When: 5:30 PM MT

Where: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, New York

How to watch: Altitude, League Pass

Lineups

Nuggets vs Knicks

POS DEN NYK EDGE
POS DEN NYK EDGE
PG Jamal Murray Dennis Smith Jr. Nuggets
SG Gary Harris RJ Barrett Nuggets
SF Will Barton Kevin Knox Nuggets
PF Paul Millsap Taj Gibson Nuggets
C Nikola Jokic Julius Randle Nuggets
BENCH Monte Morris, Malik Beasley, Torrey Craig, Jerami Grant, Michael Porter Jr, Juancho Hernangomez, Mason Plumlee Damyean Dotson, Mitchell Robinson, Bobby Portis, Ignas Brazdeikis, Kadeem Allen, Allonzo Trier, Wayne Ellington Nuggets

Injury Report: Elfrid Payton (out), Marcus Morris Sr. (day to day), Frank Ntilikina (day to day)

Three things to watch for

Will the real Nikola Jokic please stand up? The Nuggets offense started the season slow, and we wondered if it was because Torrey Craig was getting too many minutes. He got switched out for Michael Porter Jr., but that didn’t help either. After Porter Jr. wasn’t the answer, the Nuggets tried to see what would happen if they gave Juancho Hernangomez minutes. There were a couple good games, but still, the offense wasn’t clicking. Malik Beasley was inserted back into the rotation, only, he wasn’t the solution to their issues either.

I could get into a long discussion about how Jokic isn’t doing what he needs to do on offense, but that’s for another post on another day. But his unwillingness to attack the rim is the only thing that’s been constant throughtout this season. Look at his shotcharts — last year, 60 percent of his shots came at the rim and this year, it’s just 44 percent. That’s all I’ll say for now. The big guy needs to take better shots, more often, and play with more effort on offense. Occam’s razor - it’s the easiest explanation.

Will they avoid the trap game? The Nuggets need to make sure they don’t overlook the Knicks tonight. They have a national broadcast game on ESPN against the Celtics for their next game, then they go back to New York City to play the Nets, and close their trip against the 76ers. If the players are human (and I assure you, they are) they’re going to be more excited for those later games. But they can’’t ignore the Knicks, or they’re going to get beat by Julius Randle and RJ Barrett. This shouldn’t be a difficult game — let’s hope they make it that way.

Will MPJ play? The Nuggets rookie went from being a potential X-factor this season to the tallest cheerleader on the bench — at least while Bol Bol is in the G-League. He’s shown that he needs more time to get used to playing in the NBA, and there are few teams that are worse in the NBA than the Knicks. Here’s hoping that the Nuggets are able to put this game away in the third quarter, giving the starters a chance to rest for the final twelve minutes and give players like MPJ a chance to get into the game and get some shots up.

Prediction

Denver Nuggets 115 - New York Knicks 97.