As one of the league’s worst defensive teams, it’s obvious where the Denver Nuggets need the most improvement. Avoiding slow starts, though, is another area they need to work on.
Denver looks to avoid its first three-game skid since the opening week of the season Saturday when it concludes a five-game road trip against the New York Knicks.
Despite a season-high 42 points from Carmelo Anthony, the Nuggets (12-9) were unable to overcome another slow start Friday in a 119-114 loss at Boston.
“I thought we had better flow in the second half, but still dug too big of a hole,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “You can’t get behind 15, 18 points on the road. It’s insane, it’s hard to make up that big of a difference.”
It was the second straight defeat and third in four games for Denver, which allowed over 100 points for the 16th time in 21 games. The Nuggets entered the game ranked 29th in the NBA in scoring defense (104.9).
Friday’s loss continued a disturbing trend for the Nuggets, who have been outscored a combined 140-90 in the first quarter during the first four games of their trip.
They trailed the Celtics by as many as 19 before Anthony and Andre Miller combined for 17 third-quarter points to cut the deficit to 85-74 to start the fourth.
Karl admitted his team has been distracted by constant trade rumors involving Philadelphia’s Allen Iverson.
“I’m not going to deny it,” Karl said. “We’re human beings, I’m sure some it affects some of our players.”
Anthony could be poised for another big performance Saturday. He has 35 and 37 points, respectively, in his last two games at Madison Square Garden.
The Knicks (9-16) started well enough at Indiana on Friday, but were outscored 42-25 in the second quarter and never threatened again in a 112-96 loss.
“We didn’t do a good job keeping the ball in front of us,” Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said. “We were running by shooters. They would dribble around us, get into the teeth of the zone and were able to kick out and consequently make wide-open 3s.”
Jamal Crawford was one of the few bright spots for New York with 29 points, five rebounds and four assists.
New York, already missing guard Steve Francis and forward Channing Frye, lost starting forward Quentin Richardson to back spasms in the first quarter. Richardson, who missed four games with the same injury last season, is 6-of-26 from the field in his last three games.
“When you don’t have the shooters on the floor, it makes it difficult,” Thomas said. “When Richardson went out, it totally changed the look of the way we try to play and the way we try to feed the post.”
Eddy Curry, New York’s leading scorer with 18 points per game, was held to 10 on 3-of-6 from the field. He had scored at least 20 points in each of his previous 11 contests, the first Knick to accomplish that since Patrick Ewing did it in 17 straight in 1993-94.
Crawford scored 20 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer with 3.7 seconds left that lifted the Knicks to a wild 109-107 victory at Denver on Nov. 9.
The Nuggets had won three straight against New York before that loss.