The New York Knicks are a little frustrated after back-to-back losses that could have easily swung their way.
First, New York lost to Brooklyn by two points on Tuesday. Then, Chicago came to Madison Square Garden on Thursday night and stole one with some late free throws.
On the heels of those losses, the Knicks host the depleted Denver Nuggets on Saturday in a matinee game.
Denver has lost seven of eight games, four of those without MVP Nikola Jokic. Now the Nuggets are dealing with more adversity with Bones Hyland and Austin Rivers in the COVID-19 protocols.
Hyland and Rivers went into protocols before Wednesday’s 108-103 loss at Orlando, leaving an already thin backcourt more short-handed. With the loss of P.J. Dozier to a torn ACL last week and Jamal Murray’s continued rehab on his torn ACL suffered in April, the guard rotation is down to Monte Morris, Will Barton, Facu Campazzo and Markus Howard.
Howard has played sparingly but will be thrust into a bigger role for the foreseeable future. Denver may have to bring in another player from the G League to fill out the roster while Rivers and Hyland are away from the team.
“While you’re out so many smalls and wings, it’s definitely a conversation that we need to have,” coach Michael Malone said.
The Nuggets missed a chance to start their seven-game road trip with two wins. They led the Magic by double digits early before letting up in the second half and ultimately losing.
“Sometimes human nature kicks in when you think everything was rolling your way, think a team’s just going to lay down,” Morris said.
New York nearly pulled off a late rally against the Bulls on Thursday night. The Knicks trailed by 21 in the first half but came back to tie it. Julius Randle missed two crucial free throws and had a late turnover.
Randle had 30 points, 12 rebounds and seven turnovers in the loss.
“He did a lot of great things to put us in that position,” coach Tom Thibodeau said after the loss. “We all have a lot of confidence in him. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out. Go on, move onto the next play, get ready to get it done the next time. That’s all.”
Even though Denver is missing key pieces — including Michael Porter Jr., who underwent back surgery on Wednesday — it is still a dangerous team with Jokic on the floor. He won the MVP last year with his all-around play but he is playing at an even higher level this year
Jokic, who has missed five total games, is averaging 25.7 points and 13.8 rebounds despite being the focus of every defense. He will be a challenge for Randle and the rest of the Knicks.
New York is also dealing with some rotation changes. Kemba Walker, who started 18 games, was pulled from the rotation and replaced in the starting lineup by Alec Burks. Walker has struggled defensively and his liabilities on that end of the floor prompted the change by Thibodeau.
–Field Level Media