Julius Randle leads Knicks to first Denver win in 16 years

DENVER — So much for the road trip from hell. It’s been more of a joyful holiday for the Knicks so far.

They left New York shaky on Sunday, and three nights later found themselves on the road, challenging back-to-back in Utah and Denver with two stellar performances in the fourth quarter.

Led by Julius Randle’s best game of the season, and the defense standing with the game on the line, the Knicks rallied 10 in the fourth quarter to beat the Nikola Jokic-less Nuggets, 106-103, on Wednesday night to beat 12 noon. a stunned Ball Arena for the franchise’s first Denver win in 16 years.

Randle’s free throw with 50.6 seconds remaining gave the Knicks the lead for good, and Immanuel Quickley played a locked defense on Jamal Murray in the dying seconds to preserve the win.

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

“Julius Randle, Julius Randle and Julius Randle,” said Jalen Brunson when asked about his initial thoughts on the dramatic win.

“It’s us sticking together, sticking together and believing,” said Randle, who played like several other Knicks despite the inclement weather.

Randle was a monster, with 34 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and four steals. Brunson hit two free throws with 10.5 seconds left to finish with 21 points and seven assists. Derrick Rose added 13 points from the bench for the Knicks, who improved to 8-7 and survived a nightmarish night of shooting from an ailing RJ Barrett (4-for-18). Murray and Bones Hyland each had 21 for the Nuggets (9-5).

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

On Tuesday, the Knicks closed out the Jazz during the early part of the fourth quarter. On Wednesday, they limited Denver to just seven points over the final 8:44. Their maligned defense has come alive on the road in winning time.

“We’ve been together,” Brunson said. “As I said yesterday, we play with a sense of urgency and desperation.”

Just when it looked like the Knicks were dead in the water, 10 down with 8:06 left, Randle checked back in and they went on a tear behind the Randle-Obi Toppin lineup. Randle engineered a 17-2 run with seven points from him, two steals and the big man diving for a loose ball to set up a Brunson dunk.

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

“Coming in, getting on the floor changed the game,” said Cam Reddish, a key factor in the defensive end in that final quarter. “That energy and effort meant a lot.”

When Brunson told him to dunk it for him, Randle was confused. He didn’t think Brunson could.

“Wow. Gotta watch the tape, man,” Randle said with a smile. “I don’t believe it.”

After Reddish completed a drive, the Knicks held a five-point lead with 2:00 left. Hyland responded with five consecutive points to tie the Nuggets with 1:05 left, forcing a Knicks timeout.

Brunson missed the ensuing possession, but Randle made a loose foul on Jeff Green and put the Knicks back on top to stay. Now they get a well-deserved day off before taking on the defending champion Warriors, and they need just one more win to secure what would be a very surprising winning road trip.

“It’s good, but we have to keep it up. Good start to the journey,” Randle said. “But we feel that when we play the way we played, and it starts for us in defence, we give ourselves a chance every night.”

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