It’s somewhat of a homecoming for Carmelo Anthony tonight as the New York Knicks come to town to face the Denver Nuggets. The Knicks are on the tail-end of a five-game road trip, having gone 2-2 so far and losing their last two games. Derrick Rose did not play against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night with back spasms and Carmelo Anthony also sat out that game with a sore right shoulder. Anthony has stated that he expects to play tonight, though. While Melo being out would certainly help the Nuggets’ chances of winning this game, most Nuggets fans in the house probably want to see him suit up, as Knicks-Nuggets matchups have always been fun ever since the 2011 blockbuster trade. Even without Anthony, however, the Nuggets would still have a challenge trying to contain Kristaps Porzingis, who is having a successful sophomore season so far. He’s averaging 20.1 points and 7.6 rebounds a game, and his team actually stands in the top-four in the conference as of now with a 14-12 record.

For the Nuggets, meanwhile, Coach Michael Malone seemed to have found a starting lineup that really works on Thursday night against the Portland Trail Blazers, substituting Nikola Jokic for Jusuf Nurkic and placing Wilson Chandler at the four. Jokic impressed in his starting role, finishing with 13 points, 4 rebounds and an amazing 5 assists in only 19 minutes with foul trouble. Gary Harris’ return also helped, as he had a meaningful 32 minutes on both sides of the court after missing the last 16 games with a foot injury. It still remains to be seen if this is the starting lineup Coach Malone will opt with from now on. With the Nuggets still only two games away from the 8th spot, it’s surprisingly not too late to turn the season around and hopefully Malone has found a way to do that with this roster. The time is now if they want to prove that they will be playoff contenders this season.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (10-16) at New York Knicks (14-12)

When:  7:00 PM MST

Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado

How to watch: Altitude

Rival Blog: Poasting and Toasting

Position Denver New York Advantage
PG Emmanuel Mudiay Brandon Jennings Nuggets
SG Gary Harris Courtney Lee Nuggets
SF Danilo Gallinari Carmelo Anthony Knicks
PF Wilson Chandler Kristaps Porzingis Knicks
C Nikola Jokic Joakim Noah Nuggets
Bench Jamal Murray,Wilson Chandler, Darrell Arthur, Juancho Hernangomez, Alonzo Gee, Jusuf Nurkic, Jameer Nelson Justin Holiday,Kyle O’Quinn, Sasha Vujacic,Willy Hernangomez, Lance Thomas, Marshall Plumlee, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Ron Baker, Maurice Daly Ndour Nuggets

Injury Report: Darrell Arthur – probable (knee), Gary Harris – probable (foot), Wilson Chandler (hip) – probable, Carmelo Anthony – probable (shoulder), Derrick Rose – questionable (back)

Key Thing to Watch for: The starting lineup

The starters came out firing on Thursday night for Denver, showing excellent ball movement and execution, especially in the first quarter. The key question, though, is if this is Malone’s new choice for the starting lineup from now on, or if that depends on the matchups. It’s probably safe to say Jokic is the new starting center going forward, as Malone has made his intentions with him pretty clear in the last couple of days and his performance against the Blazers probably only strengthened his opinion. However, will Malone go with Faried or Darrell Arthur at the four or will he elect to start Chandler again? The Knicks provide interesting matchup dilemmas with Porzingis as a stretch-four and Joakim Noah as an undersized center. Faried would most likely struggle to guard Porzingis on the perimeter, but will Chandler or Arthur be able to contain him inside? It’s possible Malone will stick Jokic on him, in which case fans are in for an interesting matchup. Regardless of who defends who, the spotlight is definitely on Jokic and Porzingis tonight, as they are two of the most promising big men in the league.

Key Question #1: What’s going to happen with Jusuf Nurkic?

With Malone finally realizing that Jokic should be getting starter’s minutes, the dilemma now lies in what to do with Jusuf Nurkic. He played only four minutes Thursday night, and that was with Jokic in foul trouble and only notching 19 minutes of his own. If the Bosnian Beast again struggles to find minutes tonight, it may be a sign that Malone has realized there’s only room on this roster for one star center. It could be way too early to make that decision, but the more games that go by that he plays limited minutes, the more unhappy he’s likely to become. Malone did finally realize that those two should not share the court together. Now he and the front office have to decide if they can even be on the same team.

Key Question #2: Have fans forgiven Carmelo Anthony?

It’s always fun when Anthony comes to town because it means a number of players getting to play against their first NBA team. While Anthony did not leave on good terms with Nuggets fans, it seems that the sting of him leaving Denver for the bright lights of New York City should be mostly faded. The blockbuster trade in 2011 did provide the Nuggets with so many key pieces of this roster, so it’s possible that fans have forgiven him and moved on. We will find out tonight, though. If Anthony is still getting booed every time he touches the ball, fans either are still resentful of him or just get enjoyment out of booing a superstar. Either way, it will be interesting to see if they still care or if they are now fully immersed in their own young team with a lot of potential.

To revisit the Melodrama and all that accompanied it before tonight’s matchup, check out this article from Jeff Morton.