Jokic vs. Randle
Nikola Jokic, who is averaging almost a triple-double at 24.8 points, 11.9 rebounds and 9.9 assists per game, continues to play well in his candidacy for a third-straight NBA MVP award. While the Nuggets recently had a losing skid, it wasn’t his fault. Jokic had a pair of two 35-point triple-doubles during the losing streak, and in the bounce-back win over Detroit, he had 30 points, 10 boards, and nine assists.
Meanwhile, the Knicks’ frontcourt will have Julius Randle leading the way, who’s been playing well since Jalen Brunson re-aggravated his injured foot against Sacramento. Randle is averaging 25.2 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. He’s coming off of a recent 24-point, 10-rebound double-double, despite not shooting well from beyond the arc. Before that, he had 33 points, eight boards and five assists in the win over the Lakers.
Randle had 34 points and 11 rebounds in that November win over Denver, but it’ll be interesting to see how the Knicks handle Jokic at home. The two-time MVP was notably absent for the Knicks’ win in Denver earlier this season, but he should be ready to go for Saturday’s showdown and he’s been playing in top form.They barely held off Denver last time with him gone, so his presence may shake things up.
The other guys
After Jokic, the Nuggets have been dealing with some injuries. Jamal Murray has playing through a left knee injury and is day-to-day. He’s averaging 20.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists, but hasn’t looked like himself as of late. He’s scored a combined 30 points over his last two appearances against Toronto and Brooklyn and shot a combined 10-of-37 (27.0%) on the floor.
It’s been all hands on deck for supplementary production. Michael Porter Jr. and Aaron Gordon are the next highest producers after Jokic and Murray and will be ones to watch. Porter is averaging 17.2 points and 5.3 rebounds. He’s also shooting 41.1% from beyond the arc. As for Gordon, the athletic forward has 16.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
While Jokic accounts for most of his team’s success, the Nuggets are a solid shooting team overall, topping the NBA with a 50.8% shooting percentage.
Capitalizing on opportunities
On the Knicks side of things, Josh Hart, Immanuel Quickley, and Miles McBride have been fun to watch as of late.
Hart, quickly settling in after arriving from Portland, has been a versatile guard that can do a variety of things on the court. He’s added a spark off the bench, but his rebounding from the guard position and defense has been great too. He’ll look to build off of a near triple-double performance off the bench, where he logged 16 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, and three steals in a game-high +26 plus/minus rating showing against Portland.
As for Quickley, while he’s no Brunson, he’s been able to fill in admirably. He had a turning point earlier in the season when Brunson was injured, and now, with Brunson hurt once again, he’s been able to step up big as a point guard. Quickley has had 26 points and 10 rebounds in two of the last three games for the Knicks.
McBride got to play extended minutes and thrived in the moment with a career-high 18-point outing, which included a red-hot 4-of-5 shooting performance from long range, which helped the Knicks pull away against Portland. How will he build off that on Saturday?
Tip-off is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m. ET from Madison Square Garden.