The Denver Nuggets will head on the road to Madison Square Garden for a matchup against the improved New York Knicks on Sunday night.
This will be a big game for New York, which will travel to Charlotte for the second game of a back-to-back on Monday. The Knicks were off to a surprising 5-3 start but came up short in a game against the OKC Thunder in their last game. After a slow start to the season, Denver has climbed back to 4-5 through its first nine contests. The Nuggets come in with some momentum after winning three of their last four games.
Can the Knicks bounce back at home against the Nuggets on Sunday?
Nuggets cruise to win vs. undermanned 76ers
Denver got back on the winning track with a 115-103 victory on the road against an undermanned Philadelphia 76ers squad on Saturday. Nikola Jokic finished with 15 points, 12 assists, and nine rebounds, and Gary Harris added a season-high 21 points for the Nuggets, who didn’t pull away until the second half. While a win is a win, Philadelphia was without Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, Seth Curry, and a host of other players.
The Nuggets have been trending up as of late, thanks in large part to the play of Jokic, who has emerged as a bonafide MVP candidate this season. The Joker comes in averaging a triple-double with 25.9 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 10.9 assists through the first nine games and he’s upped his 3-point percentage by 13 points so far this season. Jokic has shot a blistering 44.4 percent from 3-point range on 3.4 attempts per game.
The Nuggets have struggled on defense to open the season. Despite playing at one of the slowest paces in the league, the Nuggets have allowed at least 100 points in every game this year. Denver has surrendered 113.8 points per 100 possessions for the season (25th in the NBA) and it sports an adjusted defensive efficiency rating of 115.2 (28th in the NBA).
Randle, Knicks, thriving under Thibodeau
The Knicks snapped a three-game winning streak with a 101-89 loss at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night. R.J. Barrett scored 19 points while Julius Randle finished with 18 points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists in the loss. New York shot just 35.8 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from the 3-point line on the night to fall to 5-4 through its first nine games.
Desperate for frontcourt depth, the Knicks signed forward Taj Gibson on Thursday. To make room on the roster, New York waived forward Omari Spellman, who has yet to appear in a game this year. Gibson appeared in 35 games for the Knicks last season but was due $9.45 million and was waived before the season.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau has been able to get the most out of the Knicks’ roster this season. Julius Randle is in the midst of a career year. R.J. Barrett has made a leap in his development as a sophomore and center Mitchell Robinson is also blossoming as a potential game-changer on the defensive end of the floor. Thibodeau has even been getting contributions from his bench, as veteran Austin Rivers has turned into a viable Sixth Man of the Year candidate early one. Rivers comes in averaging 13.0 points per game while shooting 55 percent from the field and 48.1 percent from the 3-point line.