The Denver Nuggets avenged their earlier loss in New York, defeating the Knicks 113-100. Denver’s starters played an incredible game, with Nikola Jokic having another triple-double at 30 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists. Michael Porter Jr. became the all-time single-season three point leader for the Nuggets with his 31 points on just 16 shots, as well as 8 rebounds and some beautiful dunks. Jalen Brunson had 26 points for New York, but Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made him do it on 23 shots and Denver just out-executed the Knicks’ stars when it mattered. Jamal Murray tweaked his ankle late, but assuming that is minor it was just about the only blemish on a nearly spotless performance by Denver’s best players.

Game Recap

Jokic won the tip and Jamal Murray immediately made a layup. Brunson finished a traditional three-point play, and then a pair of Denver turnovers from Murray and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope turned into a DiVincenzo three. Michael Porter Jr. and Murray both made buckets, and Hartenstein traded paint buckets with Jokic. Murray finished at the rim to make it 10-8 early, then traded buckets with Hartenstein as Denver stymied some Brunson drives. KCP swished a Jokic-assisted 3, and then Nikola grabbed a rebound and threw it ahead to MPJ for the dunk and force a timeout at 17-12. Hartenstein dunked one home, DiVincenzo hit another 3 to tie the game again, and Murray – who was being played very physically – made a couple of free throws. Brunson made a corner three over Jokic, MPJ got some free throws and Jokic played good defense on Brunson the next time down the court but Denver couldn’t cash in with a transition bucket. AG upped his physicality and got a couple of rim finishes, Nikola kept grabbing rebounds and pushing the action, but after some non-calls on Jokic shots Denver finished the quarter only up 2 at 32-30.

Peyton Watson hit a great jump-stop floater for the opening bucket of the second quarter, answered by Deuce McBride. Alec Burks hit a three to put New York up one, but Murray answered with a dunk for Denver. DeAndre Jordan hit a reverse dunk, then created a Knicks turnover on the other end. Burks had a nice dunk, then there was a charge call on Murray’s drive that Denver challenged and lost. Jokic came back in and got free throws, Brunson made another foul-line jumper and then traded three-point misses with KCP. MPJ hit a great 15-footer, but Hartenstein finished in the paint over Jokic then dunked on MPJ to put New York up 48-42. Nikola assisted another AG dunk and then made a 5-foot shot to cut the deficit to 2, and a traditional three point play from Nikola gave the lead back to Denver. Achiuwa made a layup that Murray answered with a long jumper, and McBride’s jumper got an MPJ dunk in return. The Nuggets made only their second three-pointer of the half when Murray made one off a Jokic assist, followed by their third when MPJ buried a side-step behind the arc. Brunson finished at the rim to end a 17-6 run from Denver, but Jokic got a putback on a Murray miss and KCP stripped Brunson’s final shot as Denver led 61-56 at the break.


Hartenstein and Jokic traded buckets to open the second half, then Brunson made a three for New York. MPJ then threw it off the backboard to himself and dunked it one-handed in a gorgeous play. Hartenstein blocked a Murray dunk the next time down, but MPJ asserted himself again in the paint with a muscular floater. Jokic overcame Hartenstein for a rim finish, but Brunson kept NY close with some great buckets. KCP nailed a wide-open three off a beautiful pass from Gordon, and DiVincenzo traded buckets with Murray. A hook pass over the head from Jokic in the paint to MPJ in the corner finished in a great three and a 77-67 Denver lead. MPJ got called for a phantom travel, the refs refused to call fouls against the Knicks during Jokic and AG shots and began a bit of a cold streak for the Nuggets. A long Gordon pass to MPJ for a finish brought the lead back to 8 though, and a KCP strip forced a 24 second violation on NY. Achiuwa hit a three, Braun finished at the rim through traffic to answer for Denver, and the Nuggets finished the quarter up 88-76 after a last-second Jokic jumper.


Alec Burks and Deuce McBride made a pair of threes to start the fourth for New York, forcing an early timeout from Malone as the bench struggled to score. Watson made a couple of free throws, but after an MPJ miss, Bojan Bogdanovic made a three to cut Denver’s lead to 4 at 90-86. Murray bricked a shot and Burks made a paint bucket to force Jokic back in before the 8 minute mark as the lead dropped to 2. MPJ got a great bounce on a jumper, Jokic finished a driving, spinning hook shot, and an AG jump ball led to a Murray circus finish and three-point play to restore order and put Denver up 97-88. Burks full-on tackled Murray on a beautiful pass to MPJ for a dunk that was negated with the call, but Murray hit the free throw and Jokic hit an outstanding shot over the top of the backboard for his own three-point play. Jokic finished again in the paint as New York had no answer, Murray caused a NY turnover and then KCP had one on the next possession, and Denver had a 103-96 lead with under 4 minutes to go. MPJ hit a three then got a defensive rebound, and despite a last-minute Jamal Murray ankle twist (that hopefully is not serious) the Nuggets pulled away for the 113-100 win.

Final Thoughts:

– Denver’s Big Three really are a tough matchup for anyone. The Knicks came in with the top-rated defense in the league, attacked Murray with the on-court equivalent of bricks and crowbars in the first half and he still had 17 points on 12 shots. MPJ was a perfect 6-for-6 in the first two quarters as the Knicks had no one who could bother his shot and Jokic had a Sombor Double at the break. The Knicks are resilient and determined but Denver outrebounded a very good rebounding squad 21-10 in the first half and 16 of those rebounds were from those three guys. On a night where Aaron Gordon was away from the rim a lot due to his defensive responsibilities, Denver’s other stars made sure to put in the work on both ends to hold the Knicks to just 100 points and outrebounded them by 15. New York wanted the game to be physical from the jump and Denver stayed efficient and effective in what they were doing. The Knicks could not get Denver’s stars off their games, and when you can’t force Jokic to play the way you want he will find the flow and handle his business – which he did. If not for some bench letdowns this game would have been a complete blowout, and the Knicks are formidable squad that was on a winning streak. It’s just hard to play Denver on the road, especially as this Nuggets squad gears up for the playoffs.

– The bench has to get it together. I believe the Denver bench had 4 points at halftime and 13 for the game, with every bench player in the minus by double-digits except Reggie Jackson (who played a lot with Jokic who was a +30 for the game). Denver’s starters are always going to carry, but the bench is pressing now, especially players like Peyton Watson, trying too hard to do too much and in the end not doing enough on either end of the court. Either the bench has to find ways to score or they have to make sure the opponents also don’t score, but New York went on an immediate run to start the fourth quarter and forced Malone to bring Jokic back in with more than eight minutes to go in the game. There are only a dozen regular season games left now and Denver has to find something it’s bench players can succeed at together. Jordan played off the bench at the 5 tonight but it didn’t help, and the Murray / MPJ tandem didn’t get a chance to do much together as the rest of the bench couldn’t hold up their end. Christian Braun and Peyton Watson are going to get playoff minutes – they have to, Denver can’t play 6 guys the whole time. Finding a way to be positively impactful in their minutes is crucial, and they are running out of time to find that consistency.