The Denver Nuggets came into Madison Square Garden and won 111-93 on the second night of a back to back (SEGABABA) against the New York Knicks. Nikola Jokic finished the game with 21 points, 17 rebounds, and 5 assists, dominating on the interior. Jamal Murray chipped in 18 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds, including 11 points in the fourth quarter to put the game away. For the Knicks, Emmanuel Mudiay, former Nugget, put up 21 points on 21 shots, Kevin Knox chipped in 19 points, and Mitchell Robinson contributed 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks off the bench.
The Nuggets starters began this game as strongly as can be asked for, jumping out to a 26-9 lead with two timeouts from Knicks head coach David Fizdale mixed in. The starters simply got whatever shot they wanted, dominated the glass for offensive rebounds and second chance points, and shot the lights out. Will Barton and Gary Harris led the way with 18 combined points on just eight field goal attempts. As the reserves filtered in, Denver kept the pressure on, and Denver up up 37 points in the first quarter, leading New York by 19 after one quarter.
The bench unit included both Torrey Craig and Juancho Hernangomez tonight, a decision by Michael Malone to provide Paul Millsap and Jamal Murray some extra rest after playing yesterday. The second unit struggled, not necessarily because of those guys specifically, but they gave up a 13-2 run to start the second quarter. Juancho got a quick hook after just a few minutes, and having another ball handler in there seemed to give the team a lift. At one point, the Nuggets led by 20 points, but seven straight for the Knicks off miscues from Denver brought New York a bit closer. Jokic had a bucket of buckets to close the second quarter, but the Knicks stayed attached, trailing 56-42 going into halftime.
The Nuggets came out flat once again to start the third quarter. A lack of ball movement and inability to finish hurt the Nuggets offensively. Defensively, Emmanuel Mudiay continued to lay it on the team that drafted him, until Monte Morris came in and took his lunch money on one possession. Once Morris and Plumlee entered for Murray and Millsap, the team began to settle down. Jokic’s dominance inside was one of the key factors, as he finished the third quarter with 17 rebounds. Morris hit a running floater over human pogo stick Mitchell Robinson at the end of quarter buzzer, and the Nuggets built the lead back up to 82-62 after three.
The Nuggets started the fourth quarter in a weak way, but they got back on track quickly. Morris helped steady the ship, and a group effort from Plumlee, Millsap, and Murray helped put the game out of reach.
The Nuggets struggle to put teams away.
This is one of the last traits that a good team generally develops, and sometimes, teams never develop it. The killer instinct to finish off a team like the Knicks on a road SEGABABA. It started when Nikola Jokic came off the floor in the first quarter, and the Knicks floated behind the Nuggets by 10-15 points for the rest of the game. The more the Nuggets are able to provide the killer blow to their opponents earlier in the game, the better off they will be long term. More players would play, starters would garner more rest opportunities, and the team would be fresh for the playoffs.
Mason Plumlee needs to let Nikola Jokic go to work against mismatches
On multiple instances tonight when Jokic and Plumlee were playing together, Denver’s big lineup helped Jokic get some cross matches in the post. In these situations, Plumlee has to trust that Jokic will make the right decision — shooting or passing — and give him space to operate. Instead, Plumlee would flash under the rim while Jokic was backing down his man, hoping that Jokic would hit him with a pass. If Plumlee has a mismatch, then this is advisable, but he was doing it with the opposing center on him, most likely DeAndre Jordan or Mitchell Robinson. That shouldn’t be happening.
Nuggets clinch the OVER in the betting markets
At the beginning of the season, Las Vegas betting markets set Denver’s Over/Under for total wins at 48.5, and many questioned Denver’s ability to reach the OVER on that total. Well, they did it in 71 games. Take that.