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Mar 20, 2024 11:45 pm

Ailing Knicks shoot for season sweep of surging Nuggets

Miles McBride

The last time the New York Knicks played a full game with something resembling their optimal rotation, they handed the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets a 38-point loss.

Nearly two months later, the Knicks have no idea when they will be close to whole again — but a resourceful, on-the-fly approach has them once again rounding into form just in time for a rematch with the Nuggets.

The Knicks will aim to complete a perfect four-game western road trip when they visit the Nuggets on Thursday in a meeting of surging contenders.

The Knicks have been off since Monday, when they extended their winning streak to four games with a 119-112 victory over the Golden State Warriors. The Nuggets last played Tuesday, when they squandered a 15-point halftime lead before mounting a fourth-quarter comeback to edge the host Minnesota Timberwolves 115-112.

The winning streak has been especially timely for the Knicks (41-27), who are a half-game ahead of the Orlando Magic (41-28) in the race for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. The Magic have also won four straight.

The Knicks went 14-2 in January, and they won nine straight through Feb. 1, highlighted by a 122-84 rout of the visiting Nuggets on Jan. 25. But then they went 5-10 from Feb. 3-March 10, a span in which Julius Randle (dislocated right shoulder) and OG Anunoby (right elbow surgery) didn’t play.

While Randle remains without a timetable for return, Anunoby came back on March 12, when the Knicks’ winning streak began with a 106-79 victory over the visiting Philadelphia 76ers. However, he flew to New York for further tests on his elbow Monday and missed the win over the Warriors. He is also expected to be sidelined Thursday night.

Miles McBride stepped in for Anunoby and scored a career-high 29 points on Monday, when the Knicks collected 29 assists on 44 field goals, outrebounded the Warriors 44-39 and never trailed after scoring the game’s first eight points.

“A lot of togetherness to the group,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “So there’s a belief we can win and we always talk about our defense, our rebounding, taking care of the ball. I thought we shared the ball extremely well (at Golden State).”

The Nuggets (48-21), with their win on Tuesday, improved to 12-2 in their last 14 games while breaking a tie for second place in the Western Conference with the Timberwolves (47-22). Denver enters the Thursday contest a half-game behind the first-place Oklahoma City Thunder, who improved to 48-20 by beating the Utah Jazz on Wednesday.

It wasn’t a perfect showing for the Nuggets in Minneapolis. Denver led 70-55 at the half before the Timberwolves charged in front by mounting a 38-19 run over the first 17 minutes of the second half.

Michael Porter Jr. scored seven unanswered points to give Denver the lead for good, but Minnesota cut an eight-point deficit to one in the final 1:45. The Timberwolves had a chance to tie the game at the buzzer, but Anthony Edwards missed a 3-point attempt.

“We just kind of came out lazy and we had a tough time scoring.” Porter said, according to the Denver Post. “We’ve just got to be more focused when we get up big.”

–Field Level Media

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