Photo Credit: AP Photo/David Zalubowski
The New York Knicks continue to pile up the ping pong balls
As the season goes on, the New York Knicks continue to pile up the ping pong balls. The voice of Adam Silver saying “with the first pick in the NBA Draft, the New York Knicks select Zion Williamson” becomes louder as the Knicks continue to pile up the losses. Last night in Denver, Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets to a 115-108 victory over the Knicks.
With the loss to the Nuggets, the Knicks are currently on an eight-game losing streak. Also, the Knicks have lost thirteen of their last fourteen games. Going into this season, the plan for Scott Perry, Steve Mills, and David Fizdale was for the Knicks to be competitive. At the moment, the Knicks are showcasing a tanking performance comparative to “The Process” in Philadelphia. Currently, the Knicks are 9-29, tied with the Phoenix Suns for the second worst record in the NBA.
In Denver, the Knicks had a bounce-back performance
Unlike the previous game against the Utah Jazz where the Knicks played like kids against grown men, the players performed with a much better effort against the West-leading Nuggets. In the first half, the Knicks performed well enough to build a 10-point lead in the second quarter. Unfortunately, the Knicks big lead was shortlived as the Nuggets ended the half on a 9-0 run to cut the lead to one, 56-55.
Lately, third quarters have been an issue for the Knicks. Last night, that wasn’t the case, and the Knicks were able to carry a two-point lead into the fourth quarter, 84-82. Once the fourth quarter started, it seemed like the thin air of the Mile High City began to affect the Knicks and the Nuggets took over. With the help of Malik Beasley and Paul Millsap, the Nuggets opened the fourth with a 12-3 run. Beasley’s nailed back-to-back threes, and Millsap scored four points during that run.
Nikola Jokic rose to the occasion in the fourth quarter
Emmanuel Mudiay helped to keep the Knicks close and scored seven straight points to cut the Nuggets lead to three, 103-100, with 4:50 remaining. That’s as close as the Knicks would get as Jokic and crew shut the door on a possible comeback. Monte Morris nailed a 3-pointer to push the Nuggets lead to six. After Tim Hardaway Jr. responded with a floater, Jokic made a corner three to give the Nuggets a 109-102 advantage. On the following possession, Mudiay missed a layup, and Jokic made the Knicks pay with another easy basket in the paint.
Throughout the game, Jokic was a problem the Knicks couldn’t solve. The Serbian big man showcased his arsenal of offensive skills and unloaded them on the Knicks all night. He ended the game with a triple-double: 19 points, 14 rebounds, and 15 assists. With his supreme court vision, Jokic dissected the Knicks defense like a surgeon. His most impressive play came late in the fourth quarter when he fed a no-look pass to Beasley for an easy layup.
Nuggets bench outplayed the Knicks bench
In addition to Jokic’s surgical performance, the Nuggets bench played a vital role in the game. Beasley led the Nuggets in scoring with 23 points, and Millsap added 17 points off the bench. Overall, the Nuggets bench outscored the Knicks bench 59-35. While impressive, the discrepancy in bench scoring could be attributed to David Fizdale shortening his rotation which is unusual.
Luke Kornet and Kevin Knox continues to impress in the starting lineup
Despite losing their eighth straight, there are many positives Fizdale can take from the game. The first positive is the performance of Luke Kornet. He continues to shoot the three-ball well and be a consistent threat on the perimeter. He finished with 19 points. Another positive is the continued good play of Kevin Knox. He has finally found his footing after a rough first month in his NBA career. He helped propel the Knicks good start by dropping 13 points in the first quarter. Scoring in the second half continues to be an issue for Knox, but overall, he continues to show growth in his game. He ended the game with 18 points.
In addition to Kornet and Knox, many of the Knicks players performed well. Hardaway Jr. shot the ball efficiently (7-of-12) and finished with 16 points. Also, Mudiay performed well in his homecoming. He contributed with 15 points and 9 assists. Enes Kanter notched another double-double to his name with 17 points and 12 rebounds off the bench. Frank Ntilikina scored in double-digits for the first time in three weeks. He finished with 10 points and 5 assists.
Operation “Knicks Tank” is holding steady, and the next stop on the road to Zion is Los Angeles to take on LeBron James and the Lakers on Friday.