By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Nuggets | Madison Square Garden
When: Friday | 7:30 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York (19-30): An up-and-down season continues for the Knicks, who are looking to snap a three-game losing streak after falling to Portland on Wednesday. Before that, they had won five, then lost five, then won four straight. They did a good job holding the Blazers (averaging a league-best 107.7 points per game) to 94 points, but New York shot 40 percent from the floor and couldn't capitalize on a solid defensive effort. Among the bright spots were the performances from the Knicks' bench, including Amar'e Stoudemire, who scored 15 points in 21 minutes, J.R. Smith (18) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (12).
Denver (24-23): Despite being a game over .500, Denver finds iself in 10th place in the Western Conference and with little chance at a playoff berth. Such is life in the West these days. The Nuggets play fast (fourth-fastest in the NBA) under first-year coach Brian Shaw, led by speedy point guard Ty Lawson and a deep roster of long, athletic wings. They are undermanned as they come to the Garden, however, without starting center JaVale McGee (stress fracture in his left tibia) and both Nate Robinson and Danilo Gallinari (left knee surgery) for the reaminder of the season. Veteran point guard Andre Miller has been away from the team indefinitely.
The Numbers Game
In just over 31 minutes on the floor, Pablo Prigioni (+4) was the only Knicks starter with a positive on/off point differential against Portland. Jeremy Tyler (+10), Hardaway (+9) and Stoudemire (+2) made a positive difference off the bench.
Matchup to Watch
Pablo Prigioni vs. Ty Lawson
If you commit to it, you can score points simply by pushing the pace. It puts pressure on the opponent, and if you can play fast but under control, easy opportunities open up. Lawson, like Prigioni, is always looking ahead with the ball. He has fantastic stamina, playing 36 minutes per contest, and uses his compact, but strong, frame to get in the lane and finish around the hoop. He's scoring 18 points per game, but also dishing out over eight assists, proving worthy of having an offense built around him. Prigioni played 31 minutes last game and we could see Mike Woodson use him in extended minutes again for his full-court ball pressure.
What to Look For
Prigioni's heavy workload against Portland could mean one of two things for tonight: either he has gained favor in Woodson's eyes for his steady play on both ends and could be due for similar minutes OR his 36-year-old body could demand a minute decrease against Denver. Either way, his playing time will be crucial in defending Denver's attack. The bench production New York got on Wednesday was great, but they'll need more from the starters, who weren't able to get on track offensively.