NEW YORK — Jalen Brunson scored 24 points on his return from a left foot injury to lead the New York Knicks to a 116-110 win over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.
Brunson had 16 points in the first quarter to give the Knicks a quick start and then finished strongly to help them come back from being 13 down in the second half. New York defended a two-point lead when he grabbed two free throws with 43 seconds left, then shoved the ball onto the court and threw a lob that Mitchell Robinson slammed to make it 116-110 with 24 seconds left.
Brunson had missed five of the last six games and only got through half of the one game he played due to sore muscles. With their point guard behind them, the Knicks won their third straight win and improved to 42-20, guaranteeing only 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 their longest four-game losing streak of the season Thursday in Detroit, but they quickly fell into a hole as Brunson’s early breakout gave the Knicks and a sold-out 19,812 crowd more energy than usual for a day game.
PHOTOS: Brunson returns with 24 points, Knicks beat Nuggets 116-110
It was tight for most of the fourth quarter when Randle’s basket snatched a 110-all tie, leaving 2:21.
Brunson scored the first five points and later had two three-point games in the first quarter, the latter being 3:55 left and giving him 16 points to match Denver’s total for the game at that point.
New York led 36-28 to one and after a quick 7-0 run, extended to 45-32. But the Nuggets began to feel comfortable midway through the second game when Jokic’s three-point game sparked a 7-0 burst, and they sped past 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-pointer play to reduce it to five at the break.
The Nuggets ran 10 straight points early in the third to take it to 79-67, but the Knicks outscored them 16-5 to end the period and keep them at 91.
Nuggets: It was the Nuggets’ first loss at Madison Square Garden since Oct. 30, 2017. … Coach Michael Malone, a native of New York and a former Knicks assistant, said he hopes to see the family Sunday after the Nuggets their second visit to Brooklyn were straight-day play in New York.
Knicks: Brunson was named February Eastern Conference Player of the Month ahead of the game. … Josh Hart scored 13 points.
Nuggets: Sunday in Brooklyn.
Knicks: host Minnesota on Monday.
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