NBA Basketball

Nuggets target .500 in visit to New York

Three weeks ago, it would have come as a surprise that the 10th game of the season would arrive for the New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets with one trying to stay above .500 and the other trying to get there.

But how about the Knicks as the team trying to maintain a winning record and the Nuggets attempting to get to .500?

The Knicks will look to continue their resurgence and the Nuggets will aim to climb out of their early season hole Sunday night, when New York hosts Denver in a rare nonconference clash.

The Knicks had their three-game winning streak snapped Friday night, when they squandered an early 11-point lead and fell to the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder, 101-89. The Nuggets will be completing a back-to-back road set after beating the undermanned Philadelphia 76ers, 115-103, on Saturday afternoon.

Being 5-4 through nine games isn't usually worth noting, but the Knicks haven't reached the playoffs since the spring of 2014 and are over .500 beyond the first week of the season for the first time since 2017-18, when they were 17-16 through 33 games.

The biggest sign of the Knicks' resurgence under first-year head coach Tom Thibodeau might be the urgency expressed following the loss to the Thunder. After all, OKC was expected to begin rebuilding this season after parting ways with head coach Billy Donovan in September and trading Chris Paul in November.

The Knicks raised their own expectations by beating the Eastern Conference favorite Milwaukee Bucks 130-110 on Dec. 27 before knocking off a pair of contenders, the Indiana Pacers and Utah Jazz, in their three-game winning streak.

The loss to the Thunder, though, reminded New York how far it still has to go.

"We dropped a game that we felt like we should have won," Knicks guard Austin Rivers said following practice Saturday. "Going into the game, we felt like that's a team that we should beat. So when you mess up like that, when you mess with the game, the game pays you back. You've got to get back on track."

The Nuggets, who reached the Western Conference finals for only the fourth time in franchise history last summer, stumbled out to a 1-4 start in which they lost two games by three points or less.

The victory Saturday was the third in four games for the Nuggets, who viewed the afternoon clash against the 76ers as a must-win contest given the depleted nature of the 76ers. Philadelphia took the floor with just seven players due to a spate of injuries and health and safety measures and the absence of Seth Curry, who tested positive for the coronavirus Thursday.

The Nuggets were able to put away the 76ers quickly enough so that center Nikola Jokic sat out the fourth quarter despite being one rebound shy of his third double-double of the season. He finished with 15 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds.

"We have to find a way -- I don't care if it's against Saint Buzzy's," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. "We've got to find a way to get a win."

--Field Level Media

Updated January 10, 2021

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