A Good Non-Win — Dec 15, 2019: Denver 111 NY 105

For a while there, throughout the 3rd and first half of the 4th quarter, the Denver Nuggets didn’t know what hit them. The Knicks laid down a relentless defense — inside and outside, and executed on offense, erasing a 20-point deficit in the 1st half to take a 5-point lead at 96-91 with 8:16 left in the game. The Knicks looked like the better team. Better than the 17-8 Denver Nuggets in Denver.

Elfrid Payton was at the heart of it, with Frank Ntilikina — who seemed like the lone Knick putting up a fight in the 1st half — by his side. They disrupted Denver’s point of attack and passing lanes, and inside it was Taj Gibson and Mitchell Robinson giving superstar Nikola Jokic a tough time, along with at times Julius Randle and Bobby Portis.

Knicks Went Cold Down the Stretch

And then — with the Knicks up 100-98 with 5:57 left — the Knicks couldn’t hit a shot. They missed 10 straight. There were inside tips (by Payton) that rolled in and out; there were layups (by Randle) that rolled in and out; there were missed jumpers (by Payton, Barrett, and Marcus Morris who was 0-4 in the 4th) — a number of them 3-pointers but some mid-range jumpers too. (Not to mention there was an awful call by the refs when RJ Barrett was creamed across the arms on a drive and no call with 10 minutes left).

Denver, led by Jokic, got buckets to go ahead; the Knicks were forced to take 3’s to get back into it, which they missed. Ballgame. The final 5:57 went like this for the Knicks on offense:

  • Payton missed a 3
  • Morris missed a 14-foot 2-pt shot
  • Morris lost the ball on a Will Barton steal
  • Randle missed a 3
  • Randle missed a layup; Payton got the offensive rebound but his layup rolled in and out. It would have tied the game at 102.
  • Jokic hit free throws to put Denver up 104-100 with 1:50 left, and the Knicks started taking 3’s:
  • Payton missed a 3
  • Jamal Murray hit a 3 and Denver went up 107-100
  • Barrett missed a 3
  • Morris missed a 3
  • Finally Barrett hit a 3 to make it 109-103 with 11 seconds left.

A Good Non-Win

It was — a good loss. Or, a good performance where they didn’t win. Rebecca Haarlow reported that coach Mike Miller did not make any adjustments at the half, he felt they were doing the right things; he just told his players to play harder. And they did.

Frank Ntilikina was sensational in the 1st half — it was his best scoring stretch of the season (he had 12 points at the half) and he was excellent defensively — picking up steals and causing turnovers. He continued that play in the second half, especially defensively, but ceded offensively to Payton when Elfid started picking up his game. Ntilikina finished with 13 pts on 4-6 (2-4 from 3), 2-2 on free throws, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals.

Everyone Played Well

Despite the poor first half, and the cold shooting streak at the end of the game, and overall poor 3-pt shooting — everyone on the Knicks played well — especially during that 21 minute period (3rd quarter and half of the 4th) when the Knicks looked like the better team:

  • Elfrid Payton also lit up the boxscore — 10 pts on 5-13 (although 0-3 from 3), 7 rebounds, 11 assists.
  • Kevin Knox looked good in this game — 5-8 for 10 pts, 4 rebounds.
  • Mitchell Robinson 8 pts (on 4-5), 7 rebounds, 1 block in 25 minutes.
  • Julius Randle 8-19 but 1-6 from 3) for 20 pts, 9 rebounds.
  • Marcus Morris 8-18 (but 3 of 9 from 3) for 22 pts, 5 rebounds.
  • RJ Barrett 3012 (1-6 from 3) for 7 pts but a +2
  • The Knicks were 8 for 32 from 3.

The Boxscore


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