Nuggets, Knicks square off after big wins
NEW YORK -- The New York Knicks finally got the inside-outside game they were looking for.
One problem: The Denver Nuggets, the Knicks' opponent on Monday night at Madison Square Garden, may have just found a potent 1-2 punch themselves.
New York enters the matchup coming off its best performance of the year -- and arguably the biggest win in Jeff Hornacek's tenure -- a 114-95 victory over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday. The Knicks handed the Cavs their fourth loss in five games.
Taking down James and the reigning Eastern Conference champions required a Herculean effort, and the Knicks (2-3) got two on Sunday. Guard Tim Hardaway Jr. had 34 points, and Kristaps Porzingis finished with 31 points and 12 rebounds.
With Jarrett Jack manning the point for the second consecutive game, New York's offense thrived and produced the Knicks' first two wins of the year.
"(Hardaway) didn't look like he was trying to force it," Hornacek said on Sunday, the same day he received a vote of confidence from team executive Steve Mills about his future in New York.
"He took the right shots. Him and KP (Porzingis) were both great."
Like the Knicks, the Nuggets -- who likewise have won two straight -- are getting production from all over the court. All five starters scored in double figures in a 124-111 win on Sunday at Brooklyn, and two bench players chipped in double digits as well.
Jamal Murray's 26-point outburst against the Nets was easily his prime performance of the year. He came into the game averaging eight points.
The Nuggets also got 21 points and 14 rebounds from Nikola Jokic and 18 from Wilson Chandler. Like Murray, Chandler turned in his best performance this year.
"We're picking up speed, that's how we definitely want to play," Nuggets forward Paul Millsap said after chipping in 13 points and 11 rebounds against the Nets. "Moving the basketball, being all over the court on the defensive end. I think that we have to be aggressive on the defensive end. First half we played pretty good defense, let them back in the game a little bit, but we're going to have those moments where teams will make runs and you gotta stop them."
The Nuggets (3-3) will look to get the same kind of performance from Murray going forward. The seventh overall draft pick in 2016, Murray averaged just 9.9 points per game as a rookie.
"I like how aggressive Jamal Murray was (Sunday)," Nuggets coach Mike Malone said. "He got to the foul line eight times. Five assists and only one turnover, made a couple of threes. So I know that it was a big relief for him. He can breathe after that.
"Before the game, this morning, he says, 'Coach, right now, I'm the broken arrow,' and I said, 'No, you're not. You are going to be fine, just stay with it. I believe in you, and you have to believe in yourself.'
"And he came out and imposed his will on the game, and he was fantastic for us."
Updated October 30, 2017