The New York Knicks continued their West Coast road trip on Wednesday night, facing the Denver Nuggets at the dreaded Pepsi Center. The up-tempo Nuggets ran the Knicks out of the building, where they are now 29-3, beating them 117-94.
Iman Shumpert led the way for New York with 20, while six Nuggets players scored in double digits. Ex-Knick Wilson Chandler led all scorers with 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the field.
It was Carmelo Anthony's first game in Denver since the blockbuster trade in February 2011 that shipped him from the Nuggets to the Knicks.
Melo received some cheers and a loud contingent of boos from the home crowd for his seven-plus seasons with Denver. Former Nugget J.R. Smith got a somewhat warmer welcome despite contributing much less to the franchise.
But it was a bitter homecoming for both. Carmelo exited the game for good early in the third quarter when his sore right knee stiffened up. That only compounded the sting of Tyson Chandler's left knee contusion suffered late in the second quarter, which ended his evening.
The narrative of this one ran as follows: The Knicks completely fell asleep in the second quarter and never woke up.
They scored just four points in the first seven-and-a-half minutes of that frame, allowing Denver to reel off a 17-0 run. Wilson Chandler looked like he was running a layup drill, beating all defenders down the court for three consecutive buckets in transition at one point.
The Nuggets abused New York's transition defense early on and dominated on the glass in the first half (31-15), especially on the offensive end (11-2).
The points differential in the paint was staggering; the Knicks were outscored 38-14 through two quarters. Denver also persisted in drawing contact and getting to the line early on, shooting 24 free throws to New York's four.
It was a repugnant showing for the Knicks, who look to be disintegrating just as the stretch run heats up. They are porous on defense, schizophrenic on offense and have been hampered by injuries. Though they are capable of good ball movement and a balanced attack, that only comes in fits and starts.
Denver is now 44-22, in fifth place and just 5.5 games out of first. They own a 10-game winning streak and extended their streak at home to 14 games.
New York finds itself 38-24, many miles behind the Miami Heat and a full game behind the Indiana Pacers for second place. The Brooklyn Nets are now only 1.5 games behind New York for the Atlantic Division lead.
The Knicks are in dire straights, and I was tempted to fail the entire classroom after watching this debacle.