Emmanuel Mudiay returned to Denver and the Knicks couldn’t hold on to an early lead, losing their eighth straight game and this one to the Nuggets.

The New York Knicks (9-29) are taking their tank to the West Coast and their pit stop in Denver to face the Nuggets had two words on the tip of everyone’s tongues: Revenge Game.

Emmanuel Mudiay was traded to New York late last season and faced his old club. Was Mudiay able to overcome the stigma of his old role and show his new-and-improved self? (No, not really.)


 

Effective Centers

Luke Kornet, Vanderbilt alumni and Kristaps Porzingis stunt double, was scorching hot in the first quarter, going 2-for-3 from three in the first. Kornet has been consistent since being called up and has been fearless when he’s taken to the court. Kornet ended the game shooting 4-of-7 from behind the arc and even tallied a block. His defense against Mason Plumlee (Or Plumlee the Greater as I like to rank them) wasn’t exceptional, but he held his own. The young center may be solidifying his spot in the NBA if he can prove himself a reliable stretch 5 with rim protection and perimeter shooting.

Enes Kanter even showed up and played as a complementary piece instead of hijacking the offense. Coming off the bench, Kanter ended the game with 17 points, 12 rebounds, and two assists. A couple of his missed buckets and fouls could have altered the tide of the game, but asking for anything more productive than 6-of-11 is a big ask, especially for someone so offensively rigid as Kanter.

Kevin Knox First Quarters Stay Hot in the New Year

Kevin Knox had his patented red hot first quarter, scoring 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting and getting to the line for three and-1 opportunities although he converted only two.  The rest of the game he was largely invisible, but maybe this is symptomatic of the current offense’s shortcomings. An excellent player in transition this two man game by Frank Ntilikina and Knox could be the future of New York Knicks basketball: defense leading to offense.

Frank Ntilikina had an early impact of his own tallying five points two assists and one steal in the first quarter. Ntilikina looked aggressive and although he only scored 10 points, he opened up the offense using his length and agility. He shot 4-of-6 from the field and 2-for-3 from three. A natural passer, he ended the game with five assists.

The synergistic moment above along with another with draftmate Damyean Dotson are a ray of hope in this barren tank campaign.

Second Half Woes

The Knicks had no real offense in the second half. They spent the last four minutes of the second quarter and beginning of the third bricking on isolation possessions. The ball movement and team play that was beautiful to watch in the first half was gone until the middle of the fourth quarter.

Hardaway Jr. and Mudiay Rally

Finally awake, seemingly because Knox had reverted to being the invisible man, Hardaway Jr. and Mudiay attempted to save the lead. After a slow start, Hardaway’s shot started to fall, and Mudiay’s did too. Well, at least a bit. Botching layups left and right, it appeared that Denver Mudiay showed up instead of New York Mudiay. He ended 7-of-20 while Hardaway finished 7-for-12. Maybe the bright side is Hardaway got his mojo back.

Miscellaneous Notes

  • The Knicks gave up a lot of easy buckets in the paint due to backdoor cuts.  Denver finished with 50 points in the paint. It’s not an insane amount, but it’s enough to consider that a few possessions would have cost Denver the game.
  • Nikola Jokic killed the Knicks  in plenty of different ways. By halftime he already had 10 assists. He ended the game with a 19-15-14 triple-double stat line. Noah Vonleh did his best to defend against the versatile big man, but he still barely held his own. Facing Jokic after being destroyed by Rudy Gobert surely isn’t anyone’s favorite consecutive matchup.
  • The Knicks average 19.7 assists per game as a team and had 15 at the half. This is great news until you realize they became so stagnant that they finished with 23. The five-out offense obviously worked in the first half. Hopefully, with some tweaking Fizdale can get the Knicks to be a ball-moving team for four quarters.
  • The Knicks led at the end of three quarters only to choke away their lead and fail to come back in the fourth. Considering that the Nuggets have the best record in the Western Conference, this wasn’t a bad loss. Still, the Knicks haven’t won a game since the December 15th. I’m sure they could use the morale on this road trip.