The push through adversity continues for the Denver Nuggets this week, as the team navigates several absences from the rotation during a season-long seven-game road trip that will pick up in New York City on Saturday.
Denver (10-11) enters Saturday’s contest after a surprising defeat to the Orlando Magic Wednesday night, a game in which the Nuggets offense struggled to find a rhythm. After two days off, Denver returns to action Saturday afternoon in search of a momentum-building performance against the Knicks.
New York (11-11) has lost two in a row as head coach Tom Thibodeau tinkers with the team’s rotation, which has notably excluded Kemba Walker as of late. The Knicks have struggled to replicate their success on the defensive end of the floor from a year ago, ranking 16th in defensive rating according to Cleaning the Glass.
Denver swept the season series between the two teams last season and has won the past seven meetings in the all-time series.
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Defending the paint and the three
The Knicks offense has evolved and adjusted this season as the team added some versatile shooters and scorers in the offseason, such as the aforementioned Walker and Evan Fournier. As a result, New York has increased its 3-point shooting (38.6 percent of all shot attempts have come from downtown), while continuing to focus on getting to the rim.
33.8 percent of New York’s shot attempts have come from within four feet of the basket, the eighth-highest frequency in the league. Although the Knicks have only converted at a league-average rate on those shots, Denver will have to be locked in defensively on the perimeter, as New York ranks sixth in 3-point percentage (37.4 percent).
The Nuggets have been relatively effective in limiting shot attempts from both areas of the floor, something that will have to continue Saturday in Madison Square Garden.
Let it fly from deep
On the offensive end of the floor, Denver can look to attack a Knicks defense that is towards the other end of the defensive shot chart spectrum. New York has allowed a majority of opponent shot attempts to come from inside the paint or from beyond the arc, although the Knicks have been very effective in defending those shots around the rim (Teams have finished at just a 57.9 percent clip within four feet of the rim against New York, the lowest rate in the league).
However, Teams have taken 39.6 percent of their shot attempts from downtown against the Knicks, the fifth-highest frequency in the league. Although teams haven’t shot lights out on those attempts (34.9 percent), the combination of volume and league-average efficiency has hurt New York’s defense.
The Nuggets have struggled from beyond the arc throughout the season, but Saturday’s matchup with the Knicks could be an opportunity to find a rhythm from deep.
Attack the offensive glass
In previous seasons, New York’s struggles on the defensive glass would be music to the ears of Nuggets fans. Denver had been one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the league over the previous six seasons, but a focus on transition defense has hurt the Nuggets’ prowess on the boards, as the Mile High squad ranks 24th in offensive rebound percentage this season.
However, against a Knicks team that ranks 25th in opponent offensive rebound percentage and towards the bottom of the league in the frequency of possessions beginning with a transition play, the Nuggets could look to take advantage early and often in hopes of securing plenty of second-chance opportunities Saturday.