The New York Knicks returned home and continued the good vibes (and winning streak!) with a 116-110 statement win over the Denver Nuggets.

The New York Knicks (42-30) defeated the Denver Nuggets (47-24) by a final score of 116 to 110. For the Knicks, Jalen Brunson finished with 24 points and five assists, while Josh Hart tallied 13 points, eight rebounds, and five assists. For Denver, Nikola Jokic had 24 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists, while Jamal Murray had 25 points, six assists, and five made threes. With the victory, the Knicks are winners of three games in a row.

New York received a solid shot in the arm with the return of starting guard Jalen Brunson from injury. Adding Brunson back into the mix allowed Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau to go back to a more normal rotation. Brunson rewarded the Knicks early with 18 first-half points, swarming Denver’s defense with a combo of quick drives and mid-range jumpers. Before the injury, Brunson was known for his aggressive first quarters and his return got him back to it.

The Knicks extended their lead in the first half to 13 points, thanks to Brunson, but also because of some timely defense and transition baskets. Denver’s three-point shooting was off, allowing New York to get the ball into the hands of Brunson and Immanuel Quickley for some quick looks. When the Nuggets were able to slow down New York and set up in the halfcourt, Julius Randle made some advantageous plays, pressing Aaron Gordon with his aggressiveness at the rim. The combination of poor outside shooting and lackluster defense from the Nuggets allowed New York to push offensively, gather and maintain tempo and start with an early lead.

But as fast as New York got up, Denver came back. Once they realized the shooting was off, Jokic began to get aggressive at the rim with a few looks, and when New York reacted to that, he began to dissect the Knicks’ defense with some crisp passing. The biggest benefactors? Aaron Gordon, who got a few good looks and finishes at the rim, Jamal Murray, who found success from the outside, and Bruce Brown, who came off the bench in the first half with eight points and five assists. Those four players were instrumental for the Nuggets and their bounceback, allowing them to get a lead as high as eight points.

The end result was a five-point deficit for the Knicks entering the second half, but one that the Knicks could come back from. A slight defensive breakdown to end the half hurt them, but the success of the previous 20 minutes on both sides of the ball was more valuable than the final four minutes.

If the Knicks were going to come back and win, they would have to do it from behind double-digits. The potential back-to-back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic turned up early in the second half with a three-ball to put Denver up 10. Back-to-back layups by Aaron Gordon allowed the Nuggets to push the issue further. New York’s defense was still all over the place, with some poor communication and some lazy rebounding, allowing Denver to capitalize, to the point where Tom Thibodeau got a technical foul and allowed Nuggets guard Jamal Murray to swish two free throws, pushing their lead to 13 points with six minutes left in the quarter.

If this was November or December, the Knicks would’ve allowed Denver to put in another quick 10 points on their head and go quietly into the night. However, the Knicks of today, a team that has fought back and battled for the better part of three months, showed their grit. The end of the third quarter turned into a back-and-forth affair, allowing the Knicks to come back. Denver continued to ride Jokic, but again, Jamal Murray thrived as the secondary scorer off of the 2-time MVP. In the third, Murray was aggressive in shooting off the dribble and creating better shots with his gravity. Moments from Jeff Green and Aaron Gordon allowed the Nuggets to hold off New York’s push to close the quarter.

On the other end, Josh Hart began to impact the game. Not only was he aggressive in pushing the ball, but his ability to be aggressive on the boards helped the Knicks secure a few extra offensive possessions. The bench was important in the third-quarter push, with both Immanuel Quickley and Isaiah Hartenstein making important plays on both sides of the ball to sway the momentum heading into the fourth quarter, with Hartenstein looking impressive on offense when Jokic was defending him. Even without the Immanuel Quickley offensive onslaught, the bench was a bright spot for the Knicks today.

In the end, the Knicks did an excellent job in the fourth quarter of further limiting Denver’s shot selection. Nikola Jokic took a few threes, and he is good at them, but they felt like bailout threes – threes attempted because the likes of Gordon, Murray, and Porter Jr couldn’t find any available looks. The defense cranked up at just the right time and the Knicks walked away with one of the strongest victories of the season. Entering the quarter tied, New York was able to score the first nine points of the fourth and never looked back.

Game Notes

  • Excellent game from the bench. Not only were Josh Hart and Immanuel Quickley important, but I found Obi Toppin’s brief cameo great with his energy and Isiah Hartenstein gave the Knicks some pretty big minutes on the offensive end. All in all, this was a strong performance from the bench and one that was needed.
  • A nice under-the-radar game from RJ Barrett. 21 points, four rebounds, and two assists, but I found the defense to be solid, keeping the likes of Michael Porter Jr and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at bay throughout the game. Though he didn’t make a three, I found his shooting and drives to be a perfect balance with what the Knicks were looking for with him on the floor. A solid performance.
  • Not quite sure why Quentin Grimes only got 20 minutes tonight. He finished with nine points on three made threes, but this is a guy who should get more minutes than that. Would like to see a bit more trust in him, as well as some more chances to perform on-ball instead of being relegated to an off-ball shooter and that’s it.
  • A tip of the cap to Tom Thibodeau. I think lost in the Thbisisms of the game – his rotations and sub-pattern still irk me – that he’s led the Knicks to the playoffs in two of his three seasons, with the Knicks having a shot at 50 wins this year. The rotation adjustments were huge and his push with this group of players has been exceptional. He won’t win Coach of the Year, (Sacramento’s Mike Brown, easy.) but I’d argue this has been his best coaching year as a member of the Knicks.

The Knicks remain home, looking to extend their current winning streak to four games when they face the Minnesota Timberwolves (35-36) on Monday, March 20th. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.

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