Jalen Brunson scored 24 points in his return from a left foot injury, leading the New York Knicks to a 116-110 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.
Brunson had 16 points in the first quarter to get the Knicks off to a quick start, then finished strong to help them come back after trailing by 13 in the second half. New York was protecting a two-point lead when he made two free throws with 43 seconds remaining, then pushed the ball up the court and threw a lob that Mitchell Robinson slammed down to make it 116-110 with 24 seconds to go.
Brunson had missed five of the last six games and made it through only half the one game he did play because of soreness. With their point guard back, the Knicks won their third straight and improved to 42-20, guaranteeing just their second winning record in the last 10 seasons.
RJ Barrett added 21 points and Julius Randle had 20 for the Knicks. Robinson grabbed nine rebounds.
Nikola Jokic had 24 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists for the Nuggets, who lost for the fifth time in six games. Jamal Murray scored 25 points.
The Western Conference leaders had snapped their longest losing streak of the season at four games on Thursday at Detroit, but fell into a quick hole in this one, with Brunson’s early burst providing the Knicks and a sold-out crowd of 19,812 more energy than usual for a day game.
It was close for just about the whole fourth quarter, with Randle’s basket snapping a 110-all tie with 2:21 left.
Brunson scored the first five points and later in the first quarter had a pair of three-point plays, the latter with 3:55 left giving him 16 points to match Denver’s total for the game at that point.
New York led 36-28 after one and extended it to 45-32 after a quick 7-0 run. But the Nuggets began to get comfortable midway through the second when Jokic’s three-point play triggered a 7-0 burst, and they sped by the Knicks just before halftime.
Murray hit consecutive 3-pointers to end a 13-2 surge that gave Denver a 67-59 lead before Randle made a three-point play to cut it to five at the break.
The Nuggets ran off 10 straight points early in the third to make it 79-67, but the Knicks outscored them 16-5 to end the period and tie it at 91. It was the Nuggets’ first loss at Madison Square Garden since Oct. 30, 2017.
The Knicks will host Minnesota on Monday as they look to push Cleveland for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.