The Denver Nuggets finished a successful but stressful 3-1 road trip and now are back in the comfy confines of Ball Arena to face the New York Knicks. The Knicks are missing several key players but are still on a four-game winning streak and bring and aggressive approach on both ends to try to slow Denver’s attack and find their weaknesses. Denver got housed by the Knicks in New York tonight, but this game is more about the future than the past. The fact that the Knicks are short-handed may work in their favor considering how Denver has let go of the rope in several quarters against teams missing starters recently, so the Nuggets need to buckle down and focus for four quarters to defend home court and keep the pressure on the Oklahoma City Thunder as both teams pursue the #1 seed in the Western Conference.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (48-21) vs New York Knicks (41-27)

When: 7PM MDT

Where: The home of the world champions, Ball Arena, Denver CO

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy….unless it’s the romanticized 18th century type. Altitude TV where available (Altitude TV is on DirecTV, DirecTV Stream and Fubo TV). NBA League pass for those not in the Nuggets market. Altitude Radio 92.5. Bring a wheelbarrow full of ice and say it’s for the knees of the Knicks players who are gonna play 40+ minutes again.

Rival blog: Posting and Toasting

Injury Report: Zeke Nnaji – questionable (back), Vlatko Cancar – out (knee); OG Anunoby – out (elbow), Mitchell Robinson – out (ankle), Julius Randle – out (shoulder)

The Three Things

The thing to watch for: Jalen Brunson vs Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Denver has some great defensive guards and wings, spearheaded by Pope, but they can struggle with the lightning-quick little guards of which Brunson is one of the best. KCP is going to need to be fast and swarm the ball because any opening is one that Brunson can and will exploit. When Jamal is switched onto him, the help defense will need to be there, because especially without Anunoby and Randle it will be on Brunson’s shoulders to get it done. He’s put up 44, 42 and 34 points in the past 3 games, all New York wins, and doing what they can to limit his effectiveness is a major key to a Denver win – and that starts with Pope trying to add another link to his DPOG chain.

The thing to remember: Rebounding the ball helps

Coach Michael Malone screamed himself hoarse about rebounds on the road trip that Denver just completed. They gave up a season-high in offensive rebounds in the loss against the Mavericks, and only out-rebounded Minnesota by 1 despite the Timberwolves missing two 7-footers. The Knicks know how to rebound. They are 5th in the NBA in boards and first in offensive rebounds. Denver’s going to have to remember how to box out and their bench especially needs to crash the glass and prevent second- and third-opportunities. Former Nugget Isaiah Hartenstein is 5th in the entire NBA in total offensive rebounds and he only plays 25 minutes a game. Michael Porter Jr. has been great on the boards and from the field recently, but it can’t just be him or Nikola Jokic attacking the glass. The Nuggets have to team rebound, put a body on their man and make Scott Hastings proud tonight to prevent a let-down in the first game back off a road trip.

The thing to bet: Nikola Jokic over 7.5 assists (-120)

It’s not a great return, but Jokic had just 2 assists in his last game. He’s gonna come out passing like a boss, and 5 assists in the first quarter wouldn’t be surprising. Just assume he’s gonna be happy to facilitate and get back on the assist horse and bet accordingly.