DENVER — When you are 38 games into the season and have only nine wins, moral victories are all you’ve got.
So the Knicks took solace in not giving up Saturday in Utah when they were being humiliated. And they could find some measure of satisfaction in playing the Western Conference-leading Denver Nuggets to a draw for much of the night Tuesday.
But in the end, it was just like so many other nights — a loss and at least another step toward chasing down a top pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. The Knicks couldn’t hold off the Nuggets as the fourth quarter turned into one Denver highlight after another and a 115-108 Knicks loss, dropping them to 9-29 on the season.
In the end it was an eighth straight loss and the 13th in the last 14 games for the Knicks, this one courtesy of a triple-double from Denver’s Nikola Jokic, who finished with 19 points, 15 assists and 14 rebounds. Jokic connected on a three-pointer and a layup in the closing minutes and his final rebound saved a possession as he grabbed the loose ball and threw it off a Knicks’ defender and out of bounds with 1:21 remaining.
The return of Emmanuel Mudiay to the city that he began his career in — and failed —provided an impetus for the Knicks in a season now devoid of much interest in wins and losses.
“We competed,” Mudiay said. “We competed hard . . . It was cool [returning]. I’m proud of the way [Denver] has been playing. Being No. 1 in the West is impressive.”
After trailing by as many as 46 in Utah Saturday and by 37 at halftime, the Knicks came out with a far better effort against the Nuggets. They led by four after the first quarter with Kevin Knox scoring 13 points and stretched the lead to 56-46 before missing their final eight shots of the half and having the lead cut to 56-55.
The Nuggets took the lead back in the third quarter, but the Knicks didn’t fold this time and Enes Kanter hit a shot with two seconds left in the period for an 84-82 advantage. The basket gave Kanter 17 points and 11 rebounds in 16 minutes. He would play just four more minutes and get one more rebound — not scoring again. Mudiay had 15 points and nine assists.