The Denver Nuggets are on a tour facing teams that their former star, Carmelo Anthony, has played for over the years. They beat Portland, Anthony’s current team, on Thursday, then the Oklahoma Thunder on Saturday, and Sunday they play the team where they sent the forward nearly nine years ago.
More importantly for Denver, it has been a path back to winning after a rough stretch.
The Nuggets, winners of two in a row after the 110-102 victory over Oklahoma City, go for the trifecta when they host the New York Knicks on Sunday night.
They might have to face the Knicks without power forward Paul Millsap, who sat out Saturday’s game with a right quadriceps strain.
New York has had more drama than wins in the first quarter of the season and fired head coach David Fizdale last week in the midst of a 10-game losing streak. That preceded a daunting road trip, starting in Golden State on Wednesday and Sacramento on Friday.
Instead of wilting, the Knicks have their first winning streak of the season under interim head coach Mike Miller. New York is 2-2 under Miller after rallying from 16 down to beat the Kings 103-101.
“We’re making the right plays, we’re making the right passes and we’re not taking tough shots, and the ball is going in,” guard Elfrid Payton said after scoring 13 of his 16 points in Friday’s second half. “We’re getting the train in the right direction, but we can’t afford to take a step back. We have to correct mistakes.”
The Knicks are facing Denver for the second time in 11 days, and it was the Nuggets’ 37-point win at Madison Square Garden that precipitated Fizdale’s firing. That was Denver’s only win on a four-game Eastern Conference swing, and it came after a home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers and defeat at Sacramento.
The five losses in six games pushed the Nuggets to fifth in the Western Conference, but they have a chance to rebound on this five-game homestand against teams with losing records. They’ve captured the first two and now go for the season sweep of the Knicks.
Denver has a deep team — head coach Michael Malone has gone as many as 10 deep in his rotation — but the most intriguing reserve is rookie Michael Porter Jr. The team’s first-round pick (14th overall) in 2018 sat out all of last season to recover from back surgery but came into this season fully healthy. He was used sporadically for the first 20 games, but Malone has started to give him regular playing time.
The hope is Porter will adjust to the NBA game as he sees more court time.
“The more he plays — and I’m going to continue to play him — and the more he gets those first- and second-quarter minutes where it’s not just the end of the game … the game is going to slow down for him,” Malone said this week.
“When the game does slow down for him, I think he’s got scary potential.”
–Field Level Media