This was the kind of late-season win a Garden audience hasn’t seen in a while, the kind of March energy the building has reserved exclusively for the Big East Tournament for the past decade, the kind of victory that these curtseys are made to believe in.
These were the Knicks, on course for the playoff position, taking control early and landing the plane against the Best in the West Nuggets.
This was Jalen Brunson, who returned with vigor, sparking the Garden crowd early and finishing with 24 points.
This was a 116-110 win over Denver that says something about the Knicks’ ability to perform with just 10 games left before playoff basketball.
A run late in the third quarter, sparked by the Knicks bench, reversed a 12-point deficit and sent the garden rocking and rolling.
Josh Hart and Immanuel Quickley hit consecutive 3-pointers to tie the score at 88 with 2:53 in the third and it was at 91 in the fourth. However, there was still the trifle of the last 12 minutes against a strong Nuggets team.
Jalen Brunson returned to the lineup for the Knicks on Saturday. Robert Sabo for NY Post
Hart helped turn that momentum into a fourth-quarter lead with a few turnovers in the third quarter to spark a run when Denver benched Nikola Jokic early in the final quarter. When the two-time MVP returned to the game, the Knicks had a slim 104-100 lead, which quickly turned into a one-point deficit.
However, it was in the final four minutes that the Knicks showed what they were made of.
Every time Denver hit, the Knicks hit back harder. Eventually, when the Knicks were two ahead after a Julius Randle turnaround jumper, they got a stop and then another stop.
Josh Hart puts the ball in the basket for the Knicks on Saturday. Robert Sabo for NY Post
Then, of course, it was Brunson who leaned on Jamal Murray to pull a foul. He hit both free throws to take the lead to 114-110 with 43.1 seconds left as MVP chants rang out through The Garden.
From there, Jokic missed a three, Mitchell Robinson threw down a Transition feed from Brunson, and the building exploded with cheers. ball game.
Yes, the Nuggets were playing for the second time in three days and will be playing again with the Nets on Sunday, and it showed particularly early in the game.
And yes, the most important thing for the Knicks is yet to come. Still, this was a game worth enjoying, especially given Brunson’s seamless return from what he called a bruised bone in his left foot.
After running through warm-ups and being declared ready, Brunson started with a 13-4 run, hit the first shot of the game with a 3-pointer and then nailed another pull-up triple.
RJ Barrett drives to the basket for the Knicks against the Nuggets on Saturday. Robert Sabo for the NY Post
Coming out of the game with 3:05 to go in the first quarter, Brunson had 16 points and there was no question about his health. He got to the edge, he managed the dribbling, he moved through his bag of tricks with gusto.
If you fell from heaven to see this game, you wouldn’t have believed that he sustained an injury.
At the end of the day, that could prove more important for the Knicks than any result on Saturday could have been.
That shouldn’t diminish the importance of a win, however.
The Nuggets hit back after Brunson helped the Knicks take an early lead and drove to a five-point half-time lead on a strong run of 3-point shots.
Regardless, the Knicks didn’t want to fold.
Instead, the second half was a stage to make more believers.
Source : nypost.com