The Knicks saw a true MVP in their 113-97 blowout loss to the Nuggets on Wednesday night.
With all due respect, the Knicks saw what a true-blue MVP candidate looked like.
The Knicks didn’t do much in Denver on Wednesday other than to put the unofficial crown on Nuggets’ center Nikola Jokic as the NBA’s next MVP in getting routed 113-97 at Ball Arena.
The Knicks (37-29) haven’t won in the Mile High City since 2006, and they always deny altitude is the issue. But something’s in the air.
In the first quarter alone, Jokic crushed the Knicks inside, outscoring them 24-12 on the way to 32 points in 29 minutes.
It was embarrassing performance, but maybe the Knicks were due for a lethargic stinker after coming in on a 12-1 spree.
As great as Jokic has been the last three seasons, he had never previously scored 24 in the opening frame, and the Knicks trailed 34-12. It was their lowest-scoring first quarter of the season.
Not that the Knicks losing out is going to happen, but their final six games are beyond rough — with the Suns, Clippers and Lakers on the road before closing out at home against the Spurs, Hornets and Celtics.
Adding insult to injury, Austin Rivers, in the Nuggets rotation after his falling out with Tom Thibodeau and messy exit, exacted revenge as he drilled six 3-pointers on nine attempts. He finished with a season-high 25 points in 28 minutes. Rivers also had words with Randle late in the game.
After his last 3, Rivers stared down the Knicks bench. Rivers fell out of the Knicks rotation and didn’t rejoin the team after the All-Star break that resulted in a bitter divorce.
“I’ve known Austin since he’s a kid,’’ Thibodeau said before the contest. “He’s a great kid. It didn’t work out because we had an opportunity to get Derrick [Rose]. That was the only reason. I’m happy he’s in the rotation here.’’
The Knicks were in a rancid mood all night, with technical fouls handed out to Randle, RJ Barrett, Nerlens Noel and Thibodeau.
It was a nightmare night for Randle amid his own MVP chatter. Randle finished with 14 points and was 0-for-5 from 3-point range while committing six turnovers. Barrett also was way off in missing his first seven shots and not scoring until midway through the third quarter.
Jokic muscled his way to a 5-for-5 start, hitting from deep and grabbling a couple of offensive putbacks — looking like an undeniable force of nature. Jokic moved the Knicks centers Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson out of the way as if they weren’t there.
Meanwhile, Randle, fresh off his Eastern Conference Player of the Week Award, looked out of it, missed his first four shots and didn’t bang in his first field goal until 4:00 left in the half. Some Knicks fans on hand chanted “MVP’’ when Randle went to the line, but it sounded hollow on this night.
The opening minute was a disaster as Barrett picked up two fouls, Noel picked up a foul and Thibodeau got flagged for a technical for yapping about it.
The Nuggets stormed to a 15-3 bulge and were up 26-6 with 3:35 left in the first quarter when Thibodeau called a timeout. The Knicks started 2 of 15 from the field as point guard Elfrid Payton really struggled running the offense.
Guards Payton, Barrett and Alec Burks combined to shoot 1 of 14 in the half for two points. Payton was a minus-18. Burks was 0-for-6 in the half in his second game back from COVID-19 and playing with a balky ankle.
But defensively there was no answer for Jokic’s bulk as he rolled through the lane without any difficulty in that masterpiece first quarter.
“When you’re going against players like him , you don’t guard him individually it’s going to have to be a collective effort,’’ Thibodeau said. “And it requires multiple efforts.’’
There appeared to be little efforts until the second half when they swarmed Jokic, but it was too late.
This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Marc Berman