Game Preview: What to Watch for in the Nuggets Game Against the Knicks

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider
@chrisadempsey

The Nuggets continue a light stretch of games in the schedule with a showdown against the New York Knicks on Thursday night at the Pepsi Center. The Knicks beat the Nuggets 116-110 at Madison Square Garden back on Oct. 30. This is the sixth of seven straight road games for the Knicks – six of them against Western Conference teams.

New York comes into the game with losses in three of its last four and six of its last eight games. All-Star forward Kristaps Porzingis missed the Knicks’ last game with a knee ailment but told New York media on Wednesday that he’s trending in the right direction to be able to be ready to face the Nuggets. He scored 38 points in the Knicks’ win over Denver in the first meeting between the two teams.

“I remember it was a game that we got down big early, came all the way back and then we just couldn’t finish it off,” Nuggets guard Gary Harris said. “It was one of those games we didn’t come out ready to play and we tried to turn it on. So, we’ve just got to come out and be ready to play from the jump.”

What do the Nuggets need to do to give themselves a good chance at a victory? Start with these things…

Keep energy high: Don’t let the Knicks’ 21-27 record fool you, this is a team that can be very effective, especially offensively. At their best, they have significant player and ball movement and shoot the ball well. The Knicks’ shooting percentages – 47 percent from the field and 37 percent from the 3-point line – are slightly better than the Nuggets percentages, even though Denver averages more points per game than the Knicks. New York is 11th in the NBA in assists (23.0 per game) and averages 20 more passes per game than the Nuggets (321.9-301.6), according to NBA stats. This is a team that keeps itself in many games. The Knicks have been leading or tied after three quarters in half (24) of its games. And they are 17-7 in those circumstances. So, the Nuggets must be ready to defend some long possessions and keep the pressure on the Knicks as long as it takes to get control of the game.

Win the battle of the benches: When the Nuggets and Knicks turn to reserves, the results have been similar this season. The Nuggets average 36.2 bench points this season, while the Knicks are right behind them, averaging 35.8 points per game from reserves. The Nuggets are hoping to get boost from Wilson Chandler in a reserve role, if he remains there after being moved to the bench in Monday’s game against Portland in order to get him more shot attempts. If so, Chandler could add significant punch to the Nuggets reserves, who should have an edge over their Knicks counterparts.

Slow Tim Hardaway Jr.: When the Knicks win, Hardaway has a big hand, averaging 19.8 points in victories. The Knicks are 4-2 this season when he is over 25 points and they are 3-0 when he scores 30 or more points. Hardaway has been a streaky scorer – he’s averaging just 14.0 points on 9-of-24 combined shooting in his last two games – but can heat up quickly at any point.

Christopher Dempsey: christopher.dempsey@altitude.tv and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.