Julius Randle scored a season-high 34 points and the New York Knicks took advantage of Nikola Jokic’s absence to win in Denver for the first time in 16 years, rallying past the Nuggets 106-103 on Wednesday night.
Randle hit 1 of 2 free throws to snap a tie with 50.6 seconds left. Jalen Brunson added 21 points, including two free throws with 10.5 seconds remaining.
The Knicks handed a team its first home loss for the second straight night after winning in Utah on Tuesday. Denver’s loss left the NBA with no unbeaten teams at home.
Jokic, the two-time reigning league MVP, was placed in COVID-19 protocols on Tuesday.
Jamal Murray scored 21 points for Denver, but was just 7 of 20 from the field and his desperation 3-point attempt at the buzzer was an airball.
Bones Hyland returned from COVID-19 protocols to also score 21 points for the Nuggets, who were outscored 8-0 to close the game. Denver had won nine straight overall against New York and last lost at home to the Knicks on Nov. 8, 2006.
Denver, which went 2-6 without Jokic last season, lost 20.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 8.9 assists per game. Coach Michael Malone acknowledged they had to change the offensive without him.
“There’s no feeling sorry for us,” Malone said.
The Nuggets were also without Aaron Gordon (non-COVID illness), putting DeAndre Jordan and Jeff Green into the starting lineup.
For much of the game the Nuggets looked disjointed using unfamiliar lineups. Michael Porter Jr. was 1 of 8 from the field and held to five points. Denver, which entered shooting an NBA-best 50.4% from the field, shot 43.9%.
The Knicks also struggled to score, with R.J. Barrett finishing with 11 points on 4-of-18 shooting. He missed all nine of his 3-point attempts.
Evan Fournier set a Knicks record with 241 3-pointers in 2021-22. He started opening night and is due $18 million this season.
Now Fournier, shooting 34.4% from the field, is out of the rotation.
He and Quentin Grimes didn’t play for the second straight night, with coach Mike Thibodeau using just nine players.
How long will the benching last?
“We’ll see how it unfolds,” Thibodeau said before the game.
Thibodeau dismissed the idea of sending Grimes to the G League to get work. “I think him being here with us is the best thing,” he said.
The Knicks will next take on the Warriors in Golden State on Friday night, marking the third leg of a five-game, seven-day trip.