Statement Game: Knicks CRUSH Defending Champ Denver. NY 122 Denver 84

In a Statement Game, the Knicks CRUSHED the defending champ Denver Nuggets from start to finish at Madison Square Garden on a Wednesday night, 122-84.

NY’s defense came out like a hive of bees — buzzing — and buzz-sawing — Denver all night. The Knicks pounced on Denver from the start, part of the Knick plan as they knew the Nuggets were playing the last game of a road trip, according to Donte DiVincenzo afterwards.

  • OG Anunoby was everywhere — guarding Jamal Murray into a horrible night but also intercepting passes, coming up with steals out of nowhere (6 steals!), and scoring 26 points on 10-18 shooting.
  • Josh Hart was everywhere too as were all the Knick disruptive defenders. Miles McBride not only played his usual tough on-ball D but hit 4 of 5 from 3.
  • Quentin Grimes had his best night of the season — tremendous Defense and found his confidence on offense: quick drives, crisp passing, and the 3 ball for 19 points on 7-11 shooting.
  • Donte DiVincenzo played his usual frenetic defense and head’s up ball, going 4-9 from 3 for 16 points.
  • Precious Achiuwa provided athleticism in the paint — 10 rebounds and a block.
  • Jericho Sims held off Nikola Jokic and Julius Randle helped out, while punishing Denver inside — 17 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists, and a steal.
  • Jalen Brunson (21 pts on 7-10 shooting) led the Knicks early and then he and Randle took the 4th quarter off.

“Overall, defensive activity,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards when asked how the Knicks did it. “Our starters got off to a good start. Our bench was huge. When Deuce went in, and Quentin, and Josh — they kept the intensity and pace of the game going. And we built on that. Our starters were terrific. You can’t say enough about what OG brings. Jalen and Julius are to me two all stars; they’re both terrific; they’re unselfish. And then we got really good center play out of Jericho and Precious, which was huge for us. Donte gave us hustle and 3-point shooting.”

“It was a good all around win. High assist, low turnover, good rebounding, created good shots for each other. And they’re a good team — you think every shot is going in for them — they take good shots; they’ve been on the road for a while — but they’re talented and they keep playing; they don’t change style of play they just keep going.”

NY improves to 28-17 and are now 4th in the East, leapfrogging Cleveland. Denver falls to 31-15.

1. Knicks JUMPED on Denver from the Start

Denver was playing the last game of a 5-game East Coast roadtrip, in which they’d lost a close game to Philly but then defeated Boston, Washington, and Indiana for 3 in a row coming in. They had 2 days’ rest coming in.

NY jumped on them out of the gate with high-energy defense and offense. Anunoby started the game off with a 3, then Julius Randle started powering inside, Brunson started driving and making, and DiVincenzo hit a 3 and NY was up 18-7.

2. Thibs Challenges Foul Call on OG — Ends Up Huge

And then a key play of the game happened with 6:29 left in the quarter: OG Anunoby swiped the ball away from Nikola Jokic and was called for a foul — his 2nd foul of the game which would put him to the bench. But coach Tom Thibodeau challenged the call and won — replay showed Anunoby had a clean swipe.

That allowed Anunoby to stay in the game with only 1 foul — and he continued to tear the place up on D and hit key shots on offense.

3. Knicks Close the Half Well — Up by 21

NY had a 12-point lead entering the 2nd quarter and then the 2nd team brought it — the energy on defense and offense. Miles McBride hit a 3 midway thru the quarter to up the NY lead to 14, then Quentin Grimes — who had missed his first few shots — Finally hit a 3 on the next play and NY was up 17.

The Knicks continued to bring it — with Anunoby and Precious Achiuwa balling out. Anunoby stole the ball off a Jokic behind-the-head magic pass and went the other way for a slam.

Achiuwa grabbed key rebound after key rebound. A Jericho Sims slam off a DiVincenzo assist put NY up 19 with 4 minutes left.

Denver started to attempt a run: DiVincenzo accidently swiped Jokic across his left eye; Jokic made the free throws but left to the locker room for treatment. That gave Denver a little short-term karma: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hit an off-balance, bad-shot Yogi Berra jumper and the lean and slithery Peyton Watson hit a J to pull Denver within 13 with 2:53 left.

But the Knicks countered — ending the half well. Brunson hit a J, DiVincenzo picked up a steal, missed a 3 but Randle got the offensive rebound and fed Anunoby for a 3 and NY was back up 18.

Aaron Gordon hit a drive but DiVincenzo immediately countered with a 3. Brunson free throws off a drive put NY up 21 at the half. A Key juncture of the game.

Many Knick fans on Twitter were tweeting it was the best half of basketball they’d seen the Knicks play all year. Little did they know the best was yet to come.

“The Knicks have done a lot of good things in the first half on both ends of the floor,” observed NBA Analyst Ross Kreines. “But what they’re also doing is making all the extra effort plays and making the extra pass that has led to better looks. Great early effort and activity. See if it continues.”

4. Knicks Show Killer Instinct in the 3rd Quarter

The Knicks Pounced on Denver again out of the half. Jokic was back in the game and he started scoring but the Knicks scored more.

An Anunoby finger roll off a Randle pass inside, and then a DiVincenzo 3 put NY up by 24.

Michael Porter Jr hit a J and 1 but Anunoby countered with a 3.

Anunoby picked Porter’s pockets for a steal, fed DiVincenzo who fed Brunson for a SLAM and NY was up 27.

Hart hit a jumper to put NY up by 31.

Denver went on a mini run off a Jokic 3 and Jamal Murray drive to cut the lead to 26 with 3:41 left in the 3rd and Thibs called timeout. That is Tom Thibodeau.

Out of the timeout NY continued to bring it — with Julius Randle taking over the scoring to match Jokic buckets, and when Miles McBride hit another 3 with 30 seconds left NY was back up by 32.

5. Knicks Push Lead Even Further in the 4th

Denver raised the white flag — pulling their starters at the start of the 4th and the Knicks did as well with Randle and Brunson. Anunoby stayed in at first and continued to do heavy damage, and the Knick reserves continued to execute — QGrimes was in rhythm and on a roll.

When Deuce McBride hit yet another trey with 10 minutes left NY was up by 35.

When QGrimes hit a 3 with 5 minutes left NY was up by 38.

NY put in the 3rd team with 5 minutes left — Ryan Arcidiacono got the most playing time he’s seen all season, and Malachi Flynn — “The Evil Dante” — came in to lead the way. Even they finished with a +3 and +2 respectively.

Anunoby finished with a game-high +38. All the other starters were from +20 to +27. Achiuwa a +18.

“Good things happen when you get after it defensively, play with ball movement and movement off the ball, group rebound, out-tough and outwork your opponents, make extra effort plays, play unselfish, force turnovers and play hard through every possession,” summed up NBA Analyst Ross Kreines. “The Knicks are doing that.”

A “Good OLD FASHION WHOOPING”, added Nick Colantino on Twitter.

The Boxscore

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