In what seems like an event that is a year or two overdue, Carmelo Anthony finally returned to Denver as a visiting player. The homecoming was not as he had planned. Melo’s troublesome knee acted up, causing an early exit to a game where he never could get it going in a 3/12 shooting, three-turnover performance. Since the injury, his game looks flat, which is both a detriment to himself and the Knicks if he’s not himself. Tyson Chandler also went down early in this one, exiting with a knee injury of his own to add injury to the already depleted front line.
It’s hard to take any positives out of this game, in a night where the Knicks suffered their second consecutive embarrassing loss. The Nuggets fast-paced style allowed for more shots for the Knicks, boosting some individual numbers, but it should not fool anyone into thinking the Knicks were competitive. Denver ran the floor on them all night, even when the reserves were in, and the pace and finishing ability was way too much for the Knicks to keep up with. With the Nuggets daunting home record, a 22-point halftime lead, and no Melo or Chandler, this game was over very early into the night.
Individual grades don’t seem fitting for a performance like this and as I said, positives were hard to come by and also to validate because of how the whole complexion of the game changed, but there are a couple of minor pluses for the Knicks.
Iman Shumpert was a bright spot in putting up a season-high 20 points on 8-10 shooting (4-5 from three). It was only the third time this season that he scored in double digits and a confidence boost for Shump would be huge, as he hasn’t really been able to get it going outside of the first quarter of play this season. With Melo out against the Blazers on a tough road back-to-back, the Knicks would be served well by an increase in offensive production from their young guard.
J.R. Smith was able to post a 15-5-8 line in the loss on 5-12 shooting (3-5 from three). Nothing too out of the ordinary for him, but it’s good to see him bounce back so quickly from the dreadful game he had at Golden State, which saw a poor performance followed by an ejection. He will undoubtedly be relied on heavily with Melo out against Portland, so he will need to be at least somewhat efficient for the Knicks to have a chance.
Kenyon Martin’s four blocked shots and two steals in just over 20 minutes is maybe the biggest positive to come out of this one. K-Mart stayed aggressive all game, which is something the Knicks have been lacking all season from the big men. With Amar’e out for the time being, you don’t expect K-Mart to come near replacing his offense, but the hustle and defensive capability is something the Knicks can benefit greatly from as long as he stays on the court.
On a whole, the Knicks still get a failing grade on this one and they played some of the most uninspiring basketball seen all season. The Knicks have been nothing more than around a .500 team for the past couple months and that’s a big enough sample size to take it for what it is. They will need both health and major improvements to a team that was so promising early on in order to get back to that status.