The New York Knicks made their way to Denver early Tuesday morning for the first time since the 2010-2011 season. Carmelo Anthony will also make his first return to the Pepsi Center tonight after forcing his way to New York in a trade two years ago. Along with Melo, there will be a plethora of ex-Knicks and Nuggets going at it. As Jonah Kaner quoted earlier, tonight is a faceoff of “the New York Nuggets vs. the Denver Knicks.” Here are five things to look for tonight when the Knicks and Nuggets face off at 10:30pm.
This should be pretty interesting to watch play out. Anthony’s knee was obviously bothering him Monday night against the Warriors, and still trotted out for 33 minutes of play. Shooting only 26% from the field was really the barometer for Melo’s decision to play instead of rest. It was reiterated after the Knicks’ loss, that Melo wanted to play in Denver. Woodson will definitely need to be aware of Anthony’s minutes, along with his effort and making sure he is not risking further injury.
2: Does Chris Copeland regain a spot in Woodson’s rotation?
The Knicks looked completely gassed against Golden State, and did not have the ideal start to their five game west-coast swing. Scoring only 63 points, probably the brightest spot throughout the whole game for the Knicks was Copeland’s resurgence off the bench long after the game was settled. Though, it was fun seeing Copeland’s sweet stroke, scoring 15 points in 18 minutes. Woodson said after the loss he will see to getting Cope more minutes on this trip, which fans have been vying for watching the team struggle to score at times. It can’t hurt the Knicks current state; both the starting five and bench could use a boost. Copeland’s defense is manageable providing he is putting the ball in the basket, just like Steve Novak.
3: Can the Knicks produce points early?
Heading into the half against Golden State the Knicks trailed by 15, being outscored by 12 points in the second quarter. First half play has been suspect for the Knicks’ all year, especially their starting lineup. James White and Kurt Thomas being inserted into the starting five for the first four minutes of games has proved to be uneventful, and spotty. Besides James White hitting an occasional three, and usually a few fouls, the Knicks rely heavily on Anthony early for points when the rest of the first unit is not in unison. Filling up the scoreboard will be crucial against a tough, fast-paced Nuggets team who is looking for their 10th straight against their former superstar Carmelo Anthony.
4: JR Smith, Kenyon Martin, Marcus Camby, and Raymond Felton.
Besides the prime focus being on Carmelo Anthony, four other Knicks will be making returns to Denver after stints with the ball club. The one that interests me the most will be JR Smith. After deciding not to sign back with Denver post-lockout, JR signed in New York and left Denver hanging. Although there was not a beat missed losing their sixth man, Smith also had some soreness in his knee after winning against Utah. Along with Anthony, he claimed there was “no way” he would be missing his return to Denver. Big night tonight for Smith? Raymond Felton is another player who brings an interesting past to the table tonight. After being traded away from New York (where he preferred playing) in the Anthony blockbuster, Felton has a chance to show the Denver fans why he was upset with being shipped off from the Knicks two years ago which led to Felton falling out of shape and a sub par performance in Portland before returning to New York. For the rest of the returning Knicks, I’m hoping for another Kenyon Martin sighting, and the amount of energy he brings to the team.
5: Denver looks to make it 10 straight against New York
The Denver Nuggets boast the best home record in the NBA, at 28-3. The arena gets loud, and Denver easily gains momentum with their acrobatic, athletic squad. The Knicks need to make a splash early, and get off to a good start. Falling behind early will not make the game, or the rest of the road trip any easier. With one chance at snapping an opponents win streak (Miami) don’t look for the Knicks to be just a number again. I think the Knicks will be focused in tonight, on national television.
I, for one, love staying up to watch the Knicks’ west coast swings here on the east coast. Tonight is sure to be an interesting game throughout. More important than the game, though, is Anthony’s health in the long run. Will he be able to pull himself out if he knows he’s hurting? I at least hope Woodson does.