NEW YORK — On Friday, the Nuggets faced the team in the NBA with the most buzz. Unfortunately for the New York Knicks, almost none of that buzz has to do with anything happening on the court.
There was drama on the Madison Square Garden court. Lots of it. The Nuggets fought off the Knicks to snap a three-game road losing streak with a 131-123 victory. They got a vintage scoring performance from Nikola Jokic - a career-high 40 points.
"He is a star," said Nuggets coach Michael Malone of Jokic. "I don't think he is a star in the making. He is a star. His numbers back him up."
And the fans at the Garden noticed.
They booed their team in the face of Jokic's dominance. But even that came between chants of "We want Oakley!" or "Charles Oakley!" or "Oaaaakley!" The NBA's most compelling soap opera was given its latest chapter.
In New York, the game wasn't the most anticipated Knicks event. That belonged to a television appearance by team owner James Dolan on the "Michael Kay Show" earlier in the day. Dolan took to the airwaves to explain his side of throwing Knicks fan favorite, Charles Oakley, out of the arena earlier in the week. Then he said Oakley was banned from the arena, "and hopefully it won't be forever."
All of that covered up what was previously the never-ending storyline: Just how happy with his team is former Nugget Carmelo Anthony? Team president Phil Jackson has taken shot after shot at the star this season, leaving Anthony shaking his head and so mad at the entire situation that he wasn't even mad anymore.
Anthony told reporters, "I'm done asking why. I don't need an explanation. I'm beyond the point of it bothering me."
Maybe. Maybe not. The Nuggets job was to take advantage of the situation, and they did. Jokic was masterful all night long, scoring 11 points in the second quarter, 15 points in the third quarter and generally being unstoppable all night long. Jokic made 17-of-24 shots, and added nine rebounds and five assists as his legend just continues to grow.
He was part of a Nuggets' starting unit that dominated, all scoring in double figures and accounting for 104 of the total. Will Barton added 15 more off the bench. The Nuggets had 68 points in the paint. Knicks fans booed some more. They chanted for Dolan to be fired.
The Nuggets, meanwhile, celebrated a much-needed win, keeping themselves in the eighth spot in the Western Conference. Still, Malone felt for his friend, Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek.
"I have no idea how they operate this year, but Jeff Hornacek is a friend," Malone said. "It's not an easy position to be in. Winning games in this league is hard enough when everything is right. But now imagine trying to win games when you have all of the off-the-court drama going on. It just makes it exponentially that much harder.
"Jeff's played in the league. He knew what he was getting when he got this job. A great opportunity, but with this job heavy is the crown. He knows that and he'll figure it out."
Nuggets 131, Knicks 123
Chandler 9-14 0-0 19, Arthur 5-9 0-0 13, Jokic 17-23 4-5 40, Nelson 6-10 0-0 16, Harris 6-10 1-1 16, Barton 6-15 2-4 15, J.Hernangomez 3-6 0-0 8, Nurkic 1-4 0-0 2, Murray 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 54-95 7-10 131.
Anthony 13-20 1-2 33, Porzingis 7-14 1-2 17, Rose 6-9 1-1 13, Jennings 2-10 0-0 6, Lee 6-10 0-0 15, O'Quinn 8-9 0-0 16, N'dour 0-2 0-0 0, W.Hernangomez 6-7 0-0 12, Holiday 3-8 0-0 9, Baker 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 52-93 3-5 123.
3-Point goals — Denver 16-32 (Nelson 4-6, Harris 3-6, Arthur 3-6, Jokic 2-3, J.Hernangomez 2-4, Chandler 1-2, Barton 1-4, Murray 0-1), New York 16-38 (Anthony 6-10, Lee 3-7, Holiday 3-8, Porzingis 2-4, Jennings 2-6, O'Quinn 0-1, Baker 0-2). Fouled out — None. Rebounds — Denver 44 (Barton 10), New York 33 (O'Quinn, Anthony 6). Assists — Denver 30 (Nelson 12), New York 36 (Jennings 13). Total fouls — Denver 11, New York 14. A — 19,812 (19,812).
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