Mike Malone
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Nuggets head coach Mike Malone understands that coaching New York Knicks can be a challenge, but he thinks David Fizdale deserves some credit.

Danny Small

NEW YORK, NY—The New York Knicks are on a seven-game losing streak with the Denver Nuggets in town on Thursday. Denver is sporting a 13-5 record despite the fact that Nikola Jokic isn’t playing his best basketball right now.

This could spell trouble for David Fizdale and the Knicks. The head coach is feeling the heat in New York during his second season at the helm of the Knickerbockers. No one was expecting a playoff appearance this season, but a 4-17 start is well below expectations.

However, Nuggets head coach Mike Malone empathizes with his fellow coach, understanding the challenges of coaching in New York. Moreover, Malone isn’t underestimating Fizdale’s squad which currently ranks as the top offensive rebounding unit in the league.

“Obviously, they’re coming off a really tough loss in Milwaukee but look at the three home games prior to that, all really close games,” Malone said prior to Thursday night’s game. “Games that they’ve been in and had chances to win. The thing that scares me about this team is we’re coming off two games—Sacramento and the Lakers—where we got pounded on the glass and here you have the No. 1 offensive rebounding team in the league.

“I give Fiz credit. His job is a tough job, we all know that. That comes with this job and comes with this city, but he has them playing hard. He has them fighting and that’s something I think he deserves credit for. Very tough, very physical, very hard-playing team and if we don’t rebound for the third game in a row, we’re going to have a very hard time winning tonight.”

While Malone might be concerned about the Knicks’ presence inside, another point guard is entering the mix. Per Knicks PR, Elfrid Payton will be available for the first time since Oct. 28, a comeback win over the Chicago Bulls.

“He’ll come off the bench and I’ll try not to overdo it with him, but definitely want to get him on the floor, get that speed out there and start getting his legs underneath him,” Fizdale said in his pregame press conference.

“I’ve been talking about wanting to run more so he’s a guy that really pushes the pace, he pitches the ball ahead, he gets guys open shots. I think he’ll definitely be a welcome sight to our shooters,” Fiz added later.

Marcus Morris Sr. was also questionable with cervical spasms, but he and Frank Ntilikina (sore back) are both available as well.

Ntilikina will likely start at point guard with Payton and Dennis Smith Jr. backing him up. Expect to see two of the three lead guards on the floor together going forward. Fizdale says this is a lineup he’s looking to experiment with and one that he’s comfortable playing.

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