OK - I promise that this is the last Nuggets-Knicks post for at least a little while! But, Wednesday night's game between the two played out very much as I had expected - the younger Nuggets blew by the older Knicks, once again demonstrating that team-ball can overcome super-star ball. The following is by Harvy Araton of the New York Times, and pretty much puts the current status of the two teams in to perspective:
Lost in Transition: Nuggets Pass the Knicks
It would be wise to remember the compelling scoreboard evidence in the case against the Knicks as a team on the go, evidence that was flashing even before Tyson Chandler went down and Carmelo Anthony went out in a truly forgettable homecoming on Wednesday night for both him and his fellow former Nuggets.
But it wasn’t so much that the explosive home team, fresh off a devastating 17-0 run, was leading, 58-38, with 1 minute 28 seconds left in the first half. It was more how thoroughly Denver was destroying the sore-kneed Anthony and his slow-footed company, practically reducing the Knicks’ early season promise to a myth.
“Don’t you love watching them play?” said the 74-year-old Doug Moe at halftime, referring to the Nuggets, who were leading by 22 and on their way to a 10th straight victory and 33rd in 43 games.
A onetime American Basketball Association gunner for such makeshift outfits as the New Orleans Buccaneers and the Oakland Oaks, Moe coached in Denver across the 1980s and in San Antonio before that, and none of his teams were ever accused of not having a freewheeling brand of fast-break fun.
“They play together, they hit the boards, they run on everything,” a delighted Moe said on his way out to watch the Nuggets complete a 117-94 rout. “They’re so much more fun than these teams that come down, hold the ball, one pass and then a shot.”
If only because he had just watched that startling contrast play out in 24 decisive minutes, he was referring in that latter critique to the isolation-addicted Knicks. With the Nuggets firing on all cylinders (including charter members of the Traded for Anthony Association, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari), the Knicks, athletically and stylistically, looked like a team of worn-out pistons, and of Fort Wayne vintage.
“Transition, transition, transition,” the Knicks’ coaches had written on the locker room board, a warning in triplicate that was much easier to read than repel. The highlight reel of marginally contested layups and dunks should have left little doubt on whether the 44-22 Nuggets have transitioned into the superior team just two years after Anthony — their erstwhile franchise player — forced a trade to New York.
The Denver crowd lustily booed Anthony and taunted, “Who needs Melo?” not that Anthony was around to hear it. After Tyson Chandler collided with Denver’s Corey Brewer and left with what the Knicks called a contused knee, Anthony walked off early in the third quarter to get treatment on a right knee that has been stiff with fluid buildup.
“He pulled the plug on it,” Coach Mike Woodson said, an admission, in effect, that the Knicks had too many problems to be worrying about how they compared with the young, vibrant and, by reputation, superstarless Nuggets.
When the Knicks went on to Portland for Thursday night’s game against the Trail Blazers, Anthony made plans to return to New York to have the knee-draining procedure he had stubbornly resisted. He figures to be out for a spell while Chandler, who played down the severity of his injury, could miss time on a five-game trip that began with an ugly blowout at Golden State and might have been the road to perdition if the Knicks weren’t a fortunate resident of the Eastern Conference.
Still first in the Atlantic Division and in the third overall playoff position, they would have to do some serious losing to slide further, and that would assume flawed teams like the Nets, the Celtics, the Hawks and the Derrick Rose-less Bulls could string together victories.
If Anthony’s injury does not require extended rest, or worse, geography could be what helps keep the Knicks’ season from devolving into wreckage — though Chandler, their 7-foot standup guy, admitted there was more to be concerned about than the recent run of rotten luck.
“We’ve been in a little bit of a decline, even in some of our wins,” he said. “There are some things we have to address on the team.”
One thing that must be asked as the regular season winds down: Did Knicks management, in its effort to load the roster with veterans bearing postseason scars to provide leadership for their actual money players, bring on too many in a state of physical decline?
This particular matchup with the Nuggets made that question seem more like an indictment. Players like Ty Lawson and Andre Iguodala made the Knicks look decrepit. Wilson Chandler, who scored 24 points, went to the basket at will. We know running teams are dangerous off long missed jumpers, but the Nuggets beat the Knicks down the court even after New York scored.
And then there was Kenneth Faried, the second-year forward from Newark, rapidly becoming the N.B.A.’s dominant hustle player, looking as if he were rebounding off a trampoline, reminding us of what the Knicks’ roster sorely lacks.
“I’m not even sure how he’s everyplace at once,” said Moe, a regular at Pepsi Center, where the Nuggets are 29-3. “I mean, they’ve got a whole bunch of really good players. I’m telling you, they’re a threat.”
Conversely, the Nuggets are also in the ocean-deep Western Conference, where they could play rugged Memphis in the first round of the playoffs, and lose. But for now, they are rolling as much as the Knicks are reeling.
Remember when Jason Kidd was such an integral part of the Knicks’ 18-5 start? On Wednesday night, Woodson could keep him on the floor for only 8 minutes 55 seconds against the Nuggets’ speedy offense.
Remember how much of a brilliant stroke signing Rasheed Wallace seemed to be? Before Anthony emerged from the locker room to discuss his knee, Wallace hobbled away on crutches, another name on the growing list for those wishing to make excuses.
At least Woodson did not. “I’m not going to blame it on that,” he said, referring to the losses of Chandler and Anthony. “We got down. We were terrible at getting back.”
Transition, transition, transition. Is there time for the Knicks to get back to where they were, or is this old, used team running on empty?