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Julius Randle leads Knicks to first win in Denver in 16 years

DENVER — So much for this being the road trip from hell. It’s been like a joyful vacation so far for the Knicks.

They left New York on Sunday reeling, and three nights later, they found themselves on the road, sweeping a challenging back-to-back in Utah and Denver with two big-time fourth quarter performances.

Led by Julius Randle’s best game of the season, and the defense standing tall with the game on the line, the Knicks rallied from 10 down in the fourth quarter to knock off the Nikola Jokic-less Nuggets, 106-103, at a stunned Ball Arena for the franchise’s first win in Denver in 16 years.

Randle’s free throw with 50.6 left gave the Knicks the lead for good and Immanuel Quickley played lock-down defense on Jamal Murray in the final seconds to preserve the win.

Julius Randle, who scored 34. points, shoots a jumper during the Knicks' 106-103 over the Nuggets.
Julius Randle, who scored 34. points, shoots a jumper during the Knicks’ 106-103 over the Nuggets.
NBAE via Getty Images

Randle was a monster, notching 34 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and four steals. Jalen Brunson hit 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 nightmarish shooting night from RJ Barrett (4-for-18). Murray and Bones Hyland each had 21 for the Nuggets.

Just when it seemed like the Knicks were dead in the water, down 10 with 8:06 left, Randle checked back in and they went on a tear. Randle engineered a 15-2 run that included seven points from him, two steals and the big man diving for a loose ball to set up a Brunson dunk. When Cam Reddish finished off a drive, the Knicks held a five-point edge with 2:00 remaining. Hyland responded with five straight points to get the Nuggets even with 1:05 to go, forcing a Knicks timeout.

Jalen Brunson, who scored 21 points, shoots a jumper during the Knicks' win.
Jalen Brunson, who scored 21 points, shoots a jumper during the Knicks’ win.
NBAE via Getty Images

The opening half felt similar to the win over the Jazz the previous night. The Knicks weren’t playing at their best. Their shot selection was iffy. But they were defending well and never let the Nuggets get on any sustained runs.

Randle’s 24 points, on 7-of-12 shooting, and a strong stretch from the bench were the highlights, mitigating a dreadful 2-of-12 shooting display from Barrett. Neither team led by more than seven in what was a fairly even opening 24 minutes. The Knicks trailed by six late in the first quarter when Rose and Quickley checked in, and along with Obi Toppin and Jericho Sims, keyed a 14-7 run to close the period.

Jamal Murray, who scored 21 points, looks to make a move on RJ Barrett during the Knicks' win over the Nuggets.
Jamal Murray, who scored 21 points, looks to make a move on RJ Barrett during the Knicks’ win over the Nuggets.
AP

The Knicks did struggle somewhat defending the perimeter, allowing the Nuggets to hit 8-of-18 3-point attempts. Murray burned them for 12 points and also had five assists, creating for his teammates when the Knicks swarmed him. It was nothing compared to the heater Randle was on. The Nuggets tried to defend him with the ancient Jeff Green, and he torched him inside and out.

Randle cooled off after halftime, but the other starters picked him up. Barrett scored on consecutive drives and the Knicks had their biggest lead of the game at six midway through the third quarter. But the Nuggets responded with their first true run of the game, an 11-1 spurt that started with six straight points from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

The Knicks had a chance to go ahead at the end of the third quarter, but Quickley failed to get a shot off, resulting in a shot clock violation and Hyland beat the buzzer from deep, sending the Nuggets up four into the final stanza. Hyland started the fourth with a four-point play, and suddenly the Knicks found themselves down eight.

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