The Denver Nuggets are coming off their worst loss of the season Wednesday night as they travel up north to face the New York Knicks. Denver desperately needs to find a way to get back on track because they lost 7 of their last 8 games and still have five games left on this road trip. The bench will be thin again as Bones, Rivers, and Bol will be out tonight, forcing the starters to carry a larger burden yet again.

In my lifetime, the Nuggets have not had frequent success playing in the early window. The 11:00 AM start usually does not bode well for the mile-high crew, but they need a win in the worst way so their fortitude will once again be tested. Under Tom Thibodeau, the Knicks are never an easy out. They play tough, physical basketball and their star Julius Randle usually sparks their spirit. This game might turn out to be a grudge match in the paint, so Denver’s defense will have to shrink the floor much better than they did against Orlando to squeak out a win in New York.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (10-11, 3-7 away) vs New York Knicks (11-11, 5-7 home)

When: 11:00 a.m. MST

Where: Madison Square Garden

How to watch/listen: NBA League Pass, Altitude TV (If you’re lucky enough) or 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: Posting and Toasting

Expected Starting Lineups:

NY: PG Immanuel Quickley, SG Evan Fournier, SF Alec Burks, PF Julius Randle, C Mitchell Robinson

DEN: PG Monte Morris, SG Will Barton, SF Aaron Gordon, PF Jeff Green, C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Bones Hyland (out), Austin Rivers (out), Michael Porter Jr. (out), Bol Bol (out), RJ Barrett (day to day), Nerlens Noel (day to day), Jericho Sims (day to day)

Three Things to Watch

Points in the paint

The Nuggets were obliterated in the paint on Wednesday against the Magic. Orlando outscored them 66-38 and it turned out to be one of the deciding factors in the game. New York is effective in the paint as well with strong and tall bigs like Randle and Robinson. Although the Knicks lost to the Bulls on Thursday, they did outscore them 66-42 in the paint. Chicago’s largest lead in that game was 21 and New York’s aggressiveness towards the basket assisted their comeback. I would assume Gordon shadows Randle for the majority of the game since he is their best offensive threat, so look for a battle inside between those two.

Fastbreak points

This was another area in which the Nuggets were disappointing against Orlando. They only scored three points on the break and although the Magic only scored 10, that seven-point margin could have won them the game. The Nuggets like to play slow in the half court but as we know, Jokic loves to push the ball down the court after a missed shot so maybe we see some quarterback throws out of him tonight. Aaron Gordon is another player the Nuggets like to play through in the fastbreak. When he gets downhill, he is tough to stop as strong as he is, but he also makes the right read if others are open.

Bench scoring

Some productivity out of the bench tonight might be surprising as they will be without Bones, Rivers, and Bol, but they cannot make frequent mistakes to lose the game. The bench tonight needs to act like a veteran backup quarterback in the NFL. Make solid reads, know your role, and do not turn the ball over. The Knicks bench is led by Derrick Rose who has revived his career in that role, and Obi Toppin who seems to be their sparkplug. I do not expect Denver’s bench to outscore New York’s but if they can manage the game and prevent a deficit from enlarging, the Nuggets starters should be able to outperform New York’s.