Knicks Beat the Best in the West. NY 116 Denver 110

Another agita ending — another win over one of the best teams in the NBA — this time the 47-23 Denver Nuggets who are 1st place in the Western Conference.

Even more impressive: NY won at Madison Square Garden on a Saturday afternoon. The Garden in recent years has become the place where other teams put on extra effort in front of all the lights; the Knicks have been regularly beaten at home.

Not any more.

In this one, the Knicks jumped out to an early 13-point lead, but Denver came back and imposed their will late in the 2nd quarter and into the 3rd — taking a 13-point lead of their own. But NY battled back to tie it entering the 4th quarter. The two teams threw haymakers at each other, and the Knicks came out on top. The game was tied at 110 with 2:37 left, and the Knicks scored the last 6 points.

Mitchell Robinson defended defending 2-time MVP Nikola Jokic well down the stretch, and RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, and Jalen Brunson took care of the offense. And Robinson too — with a slam off a Brunson full-court drive for the final score. Josh Hart was making hustle plays. Isaiah Hartenstein also did a good job defending Jokic when he was in.

“Mitch and Isaiah gave us solid minutes,” summed up coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “Jokic is a lot to deal with; Murray is a lot to deal with. The Rebounding was huge for us. Julius hit some timely buckets late. That was big. Jalen came in and stabilized us. Giving up 19 points in the 4th quarter against an explosive offensive team. Just finding a way to win; getting some timely stops. The rebounding was huge. Josh. RJ gave us really, really good minutes. Quick. It was a solid team win.”

NY improves to 42-30; Denver falls to 47-24.

1. Brunson Back; On Fire Early; Strong Late

Jalen Brunson was back after missing 5 games with a bad ankle sprain (sans a first half against Sacramento after which he put himself back on the shelf). And Brunson came out firing — scoring 16 points in the 1st quarter to help the Knicks to an early 10-point lead.

After that, Brunson had a rough 2nd and 3rd quarter — missing shots and being stifled on his drives inside as Denver put up a wall against him.

But in the final minutes, Brunson came up big — scoring buckets inside and — with the Knicks up by 2 points and 44 seconds left, drawing a foul and making both free throws to put NY up by 4.

Then, on the final score of the game — Mitchell Robinson played great D on Jokic forcing him to miss a 3, Josh Hart rebounded, fed Brunson who took off down court as Denver failed to foul — and fed Robinson for a SLAM and Knick 6 point lead as the Garden ERUPTED.

2. Barrett Strong to the Hoop

RJ Barrett had a strong, efficient game — he was a big reason for the Knicks comeback in the 3rd quarter and was big down the stretch as well. He played Great Defense all evening on Michael Porter — and was taking it to the rim hard on offense.

Barrett was in the game down the stretch — in recent games Immanuel Quickley has been in.

Barrett scored 21 points on an efficient 8-13 shooting (0-3 from 3; 5-6 in free throws) with 4 rebounds, 2 assists and a +13.

“It’s not what he’s doing differently. When he attacks the basket he’s very efficient. When he starts floating and fading away and all that, that’s where the problems come. Attack the basket, stop messing around. The more you attack the basket the better it is. If you’re one-on-one and you have an angle to the basket, shoot. If you have 2 or 3 guys hanging on you, spray. Don’t complicate the game. I thought he made good reads today. But I want him in attack mode. It’s simplicity in execution; don’t complicate this.”

3. Robinson Tremendous After the Snapchat Posts

Mitchell Robinson had created some drama after the last game (a win) when posted to Snapchat that he wasn’t getting enough shots: “Tired asf of just being out there for cardio fam like I want to play basketball to really just wasting my time and energy … Disappearing for a while.”

A day later, he posted an apology on Instagram.

In this game, Robinson was back at his energetic self — affecting the game with his Defense and Offensive rebounding. Robinson had 9 rebounds — 7 offensive — with 3 assists, a steal, a block, and 8 points on 3-4 shooting (and 2-2 from the free throw line!).

Afterwards, Immanuel Quickley when asked by Fred Katz of the Athletic about the Snapchat, said “We’re all brothers; we kind of even joked about it on the plane a little bit. Mitch is a great guy off the floor, obviously. I think everyone knows that. He’s like a character. He can be funny and outgoing. We understand who Mitch is. We told him, any time we get the ball if we can get it to him a little more, we’ll try to do that. We want everyone on the team to be happy.”

After the game, Rob Perez — aka @WorldWideWob — said “I’ve been adamant Mitchell Robinson is the most irreplaceable Knick this season bc of 1) his rim protection + 2) the second chance opportunities he creates with his size/athleticism. Today was his Sagrada Familia, 7 offensive rebounds — 6 of which led to points.”

Sagrada Familia is an gorgeous, but famously unfinished Catholic Church in Barcelona Spain — considered by some the ultimate beautiful Catholic church in the world.

4. Randle Big Buckets Late

Julius Randle made some HUGE buckets late — finishing with 20 points and 7 rebounds on 6-15 shooting (1-6 from 3).

The Knicks didn’t have their 3 going all game, and Denver did — one of the reasons why Denver was able to come back and take leads. NY was 9-32 from 3 (28 %); Denver was 12-33 (38%).

5. Hartenstein and Hart Great Too

Isaiah Hartenstein played great — rebounding, scoring inside, and guarding Jokic with Big Body defense. He and Robinson gave the Knicks a tough one-two tag-team at center.

And Josh Hart made the big defensive hustle plays all evening as usual.

Hartenstein and Hart made music together in the 4th with the play of the game:

6. Denver Good Offense & Tough D

Jamaal Murray was a tough guard all night, coming around curls for 3’s — he had 25 pts (9-14 from the floor and 5-7 from 3) even with Josh Hart and Quentin Grimes guarding him.

Bruce Brown was also a tough guard for NY — he has brought his toughness to Denver from the Brooklyn Nets.

Aaron Gordon had 14 points and Jeff Green 12 points, including a Julius Erving-esq slam (as noted by Walt Frazier on the broadcast).

The Boxscore


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