Julius Randle led the Knicks to their first win in Denver in 16 years
DENVER – So much for being the road trip from hell. It’s been an enjoyable offseason for the Knicks so far.
They left New York reeling on Sunday, and three nights later, they find themselves on the road, coming off a challenging back-to-back sweep with two big-time fourth-quarter performances in Utah and Denver.
Led by Julius Randle’s best game of the season and the defensive line standing tall, the Knicks rallied from 10 down in the fourth quarter to fall to the Nikola Jokic-less Nuggets, 106-103, on Wednesday night in Denver for the franchise’s first win in 16 years in a stunned Ball Arena. .
Randle’s free throw with 50.6 seconds left gave the Knicks the lead for good, and Emmanuel Quick played lock-down defense on Jamal Murray in the final seconds to preserve the win.
“Julius Randle, Julius Randle and Julius Randle,” Jalen Brunson said, when asked his initial thoughts on the dramatic victory.
“It’s about us sticking together, staying together and believing,” said Randle, who, like the other Knicks, played under the weather.
Randle was a monster, with 34 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and four steals. Brunson made two clutch free throws with 10.5 seconds left and finished with 21 points and seven assists. Derrick Rose added 13 points off the bench for the Knicks, who improved to 8-7 and survived a nightmare shooting night from an ailing RJ Barrett (4-for-18). Murray and Bones Highland each had 21 for the Nuggets (9-5).
On Tuesday, the Knicks shut out the Jazz early in the fourth quarter. On Wednesday, they limited Denver to just seven points in the final 8:44. Their battered defense came alive on the road in winning times.
“We’ve been together,” Brunson said. “As I said yesterday, we’re playing with a sense of urgency and desperation.”
Just when it looked like the Knicks were dead in the water, down by 10 with 8:06 left, Randle checked back in and they tore away behind a Randle-Obi Toppin lineup. Randle went on a 17-2 run that included seven points from him, two steals and diving for a loose ball to set up a Brunson dunk.
“Ju’ coming in, getting up the floor, changed the game,” said Cam Reddish, a major factor on the defensive end in the final quarter. “That energy and effort means a lot.”
When Brunson told him he had to sink it for him, Randall was confused. He didn’t think Brunson could do it.
“Wow. I’ve got to watch the tape, man,” Randle said with a laugh. “I don’t believe it.”
After Reddish finished a drive, the Knicks held a five-point edge with 2:00 left. Highland responded with five straight points to get the Nuggets up with 1:05 to go, forcing a Knicks timeout.
Brunson missed on the ensuing possession, but Randle fouled a loose ball on Jeff Green to put the Knicks on top to stay. Now that they have a well-deserved day off before facing the defending champion Warriors, they need just one more win to seal what would be a very surprising winnable road trip.
“It’s good, but we have to keep it going. Great start to the trip,” Randle said. “But we think the way we’ve played, and it starts on the defensive end for us, we give ourselves a shot every night.”
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