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It was the kind of late-season victory that hasn’t been seen by Garden NBA crowds in quite some time, the kind of March energy building reserved almost exclusively for the Big East Tournament for the past decade or more. Well, the kind of win that inspires faith in these Knicks.
It was the Knicks, on course for a playoff position, seized control early and unleashed the plane against the best-in-the-West Nuggets.
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It was Jalen Brunson who came back strongly, sparking the Garden crowd early and leading the Knicks with 24 points and five assists, the last of which lobbed Mitchell Robinson to seal the overall win. fed.
It was a 116-110 win over Denver on Saturday afternoon, with just 10 games left before playoff basketball, that revealed something of the Knicks’ mettle.
“We just kept fighting,” Brunson said.
Informed after the game that the Knicks (42-30) had their most wins in a decade, Brunson raised an eyebrow.
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Josh Hart, sitting next to him, jumped up.
“I’m enjoying it,” Hart said. “I think we’re all enjoying it. But we’re not complacent, I think that’s the biggest thing. I think the biggest thing about this team is that we have strength, we have resilience. Yes, we have great leadership.”
It all showed amid a white-knuckle second half on Saturday.
A run late in the third quarter, sparked by the Knicks’ bench, turned a 12-point deficit around and got the Garden rocking and rolling.
Hart and Emmanuel Quickle hit consecutive 3-pointers to tie the score at 88 with 2:53 to go in the third, and it was tied at 91 in the fourth.
However, the final 12 minutes against the powerhouse Nuggets team was still a short affair.
Hart helped convert that third-quarter momentum into a fourth-quarter lead, with a couple of turnovers scoring a run as Denver put Nikola Jokic on the bench to start the final quarter.
When the two-time MVP returned to the game, the Knicks’ lead was a slim 104–100, and it quickly evaporated to a one-point deficit.
In the final four minutes, however, the Knicks showed what they were made of.
Every time Denver punched back, the Knicks punched back harder.
Finally, with the Knicks up two after a Julius Randle turnaround jumper, they got a stop, and then another stop.
Then it was Brunson – of course – leaning toward Jamal Murray to draw a foul.
He hit both free throws to take a 114-110 lead with 43.1 seconds left as MVP chants rang out around the Garden.
“It’s special,” Brunson said. “I’m just happy that we won and it’s a big fan base to play in front of and I appreciate that, but there’s a long way to go before that.”
From there, Jokic missed a 3-pointer, Robinson threw down a transition feed from Brunson and the building erupted in cheers.
“The fourth quarter, we were at our best,” coach Tom Thibodeau said of the final 12 minutes, in which the Knicks held Denver to only 19 points. “It was a lot of guys doing a lot of things well.” … We played hard and put up 19 points in the fourth quarter against an explosive team — they’re a great offensive team, great — it was solid.
Yes, the Nuggets were playing the Nets for the second time in three days and again on Sunday, and it showed, especially at the beginning of the game.
And of course, what matters most to the Knicks is yet to come.
Still, it was a game worth enjoying, especially because of Brunson’s smooth return from what he called a bone spur in his left foot.
After going through warmups and being declared ready to go, Brunson went on a 13–4 run to start the game, his first shot of the match, hit a 3-pointer, then nailed another pull-up triple.
By the time he came out of the game with 3:05 to go in the first quarter, Brunson had 16 points and there was no longer any question about his health.
He got to the rim, made the dribble and went through his bag of moves with gusto.
“Everything was going according to plan and I didn’t feel anything,” Brunson said, “so I just kept walking and playing.”
At the end of the day, this could prove more important to the Knicks than any result on Saturday.
This is not to diminish the importance of a win.
Especially one that can make a believer.
Jalen Brunson’s return sparks Knicks in telling win over West-leading Nuggets
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