The Denver Nuggets wrap their 5-game road trip tonight in New York against the Knicks. Denver and New York are each winners of 4 of their last 5, and which of those teams can keep the positive streak going may come down to matchups. The addition of OG Anunoby has bolstered the Knicks defense and shooting depth while weakening bench scoring, while Denver’s bench has been missing its own scoring punch of late without Julian Strawther. On the season both are bottom-5 bench scoring units, so either the starters for both teams are going to have to carry the load again or one team’s bench will need to exceed its usual production. The Nuggets need one last burst of energy to go home to Denver with this victory against a tough squad – we’ll see if they have it in them.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (31-14) at New York Knicks (27-17)

When: 5:30 PM MST

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

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 available on DirecTV, DirecTV Stream and Fubo TV). NBA League pass for those not in the Nuggets market. Altitude Radio 92.5 FM. Say you’re a roadie for Dolan’s band.

Rival blog: Posting & Toasting

Injury report: Reggie Jackson – probable (left toe sprain), Julian Strawther – out (knee), Vlatko Cancar – out (knee), Colin Gillespie – out (G-League), Braxton Key – out (G-League); Isaiah Hartenstein – questionable (Achilles), Mitchell Robinson – out (ankle)

The Three Things

The thing to watch for: Which Big 2 comes out on top?

Each duo – Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic for Denver, Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle for New York – have averaged almost 57 combined points per game over their last 5, with one player being steady and one alternating between below 20 and over 30 for most of that. New York, in fact, plays a little like Mirror Denver with its offense around those two guys, having Brunson initiate and attack the hoop while Randle gets a lot of assists in a secondary role and helps to clean the glass. The Nuggets haven’t gotten the scoring punch down the rest of their lineup recently which means it’s not really enough to fight New York’s pair to a draw – Denver’s duo has to come out on top.

Brunson is good everywhere and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will have his work cut out for him in slowing that man down. Aaron Gordon is going to need to force Randle into doing things he doesn’t want to do, while AG and Jokic work together on rebounds on both ends. A great rebounding appearance from MPJ wouldn’t go amiss either, but Denver will need its two best scorers to stay hot tonight while they force one member of NY’s great scoring tandem to have a less-effective evening.

The thing to remember: Offense tops defense in the modern NBA

The Knicks with Anunoby are a defensive powerhouse. Since the start of January, New York has the second-best defense in the league as well as the second-best net rating. On the season, the Knicks are a rebounding dynamo (third in the league in total rebounds), hold opponents to the third-fewest points-per-game and generally make life miserable for opposing offenses. But they are also next-to-last in assists and if they aren’t making threes their scoring profile dips significantly from middle-of-the-pack to the basement.

Both teams play slow (27th and 28th in the NBA) so New York will not be forcing Denver to do anything it doesn’t want to do: play a half-court game, make every shot count, move the ball and capitalize on open shots. The Knicks are not especially turnover-reliant; they get rebounds on misses, they don’t wreak havoc with steals and a transition game. Denver’s job in this game is to take care of the ball and execute its highly efficient offense – sixth in the league in eFG% – to grind out more buckets than the Knicks can. If Hartenstein is out that is doubly true.

New York doesn’t give a lot of second chances, but Denver shouldn’t need as many as New York will. Fight hard on the glass, make your shots, and finally go home to the Mile High with one last victory secured. They just need to survive the New York nightlife first.

The thing to bet: Jamal Murray double-double (+340)

The odds are high, but Jamal just did this a few games ago against the 76ers, who were not able to stop his passing, and he’s had 7+ assists in 4 of his last 5. He’s been consistently in an assist frame of mind. Even if Hartenstein plays he should be limited against Jokic, and that roll to the basket it always good for a few assists from the guard. Brunson is too small to really hamper the bigger Murray’s passing attempts and New York is more of a “make the shots you take harder” defense than a “harass the ball-handler” defense. Denver has guys that make hard shots. For the odds it’s worth a sprinkle.