(Photo via: Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
Nuggets keep 11-game home winning streak against Knicks alive and win ninth straight at home overall.
The Denver Nuggets (24-11) put it together late to overcome the New York Knicks (9-29) 115-108. Nikola Jokic had another triple-double with 19 points, 15 assists, and 14 rebounds while Malik Beasley added 21 points off the bench. It was truly Paul Millsap and his 16 points in his second game back that sparked the Nuggets to pull ahead late in this one though.
After the Knicks scored the first five points of the contest, the Nuggets, specifically Torrey Craig, roared back with a 10-0 run. Craig had eight of the team’s points on the run, scoring the Nuggets first basket on a backdoor cut from Jokic and adding two threes in rhythm.
Paul Millsap and Gary Harris both received huge ovations when they checked into the game. This was Millsap’s first home game back and Harris’ first game back overall. Both were slightly rusty in their first looks on offense, but brought some excitement to their time on the floor.
For a couple minutes in the mid-first we got a look at the starters playing together again and Jokic looked strong as a facilitator in the mid to low post. If the energy wasn’t already high enough in the building, Jamal Murray delivered his second dunk of the game, this one a poster of Frank Ntilikina.
The Knicks had a lot of success going to Kevin Knox in the first quarter as he generated three and-one opportunities for himself. The Nuggets struggled in general on defense taking away anything the Knicks wanted to do, and as a result, found themselves down four at the end of the first.
One of the problems was the Nuggets really struggled defending the paint and allowing second chance points from the time the game started. Whether it was Enes Kanter or Noah Vonleh in the second quarter, the Nuggets just weren’t aggressive enough to dictate the style of play.
That started to change after Jokic picked up an offensive foul trying to hook a defenders arm. From there, he started to refocus like he was in the early first quarter and ended up securing his 10th assist midway through the second quarter.
Still, throughout the entire first half the Nuggets couldn’t figure it out on the defensive end, allowing the Knicks to shoot better than 50 percent from the field and from three. Whether it was a chemistry issue or just a lull in effort and communication, the rotations were slow or non-existent and the Knicks took full advantage by shooting the lights out.
In the final couple minutes of the half the Nuggets finally committed on the defensive end, but also decided to be aggressive on the offensive end, taking it to the basket instead of settling for cross court threes. After a Jokic block Torrey Craig cut to the basket and slammed the feed from Paul Millsap home to secure a 9-0 run to bring the Nuggets within one.
It was clear that even though the Nuggets fought back with a little bit of defensive effort that this one would have to be won in a shootout style fashion.
The Nuggets just struggled to fit the pieces together throughout the third and especially couldn’t close out possessions with rebounds over Kanter. However, Millsap started to shift the momentum again in the third with some smooth ball handling into his postups and even what should have been an and-one dunk off an offensive rebound.
Denver started the fourth quarter on a 7-0 run thanks to Malik Beasley finding the jumper that has propelled the Nuggets to their last two wins. Beasley hit two threes in the Nuggets early run, but it was truly Paul Millsap’s complete performance, starting in the third quarter, that truly ignited the confidence the Nuggets ended up finding to close this one out.
Emmanuel Mudiay had his revenge game in this return to Denver, starting to make some Nuggets fans nervous by scoring seven straight points before Morris hit a three bringing some life back to the Pepsi Center crowd.
In the end, it was Nikola Jokic who took over and put this game away, as he should. Scoring five straight points for the Nuggets and also making the play of the day by saving it off of Tim Hardaway Jr. to give the Nuggets another possession. And ultimately, it was the Jokic look-away pass to Beasley, his 15th assist of the game, that put the Nuggets up eight and put the game away.
Very little about this game was pretty, especially defensively, but that’s what this next week is probably going to look like. Putting the pieces back together will take a short term adjustment. If the Nuggets are fortunate enough to knock the rust off and re-acclimate their returning starters to the starting lineup over the next week before their January schedule gets seriously difficult, then they should be well on their way to another winning month.