Jalen Brunson returns from foot injury to lead Knicks past Nikola Jokic, Nuggets 116-110 – The Denver Post
Jalen Brunson returned to “MVP” chants in one of the best wins of this increasingly impressive Knicks campaign.
The point guard, emblematic of the Knicks’ resurgence this season, came out of a three-game injury absence and punished the Nuggets late in a 116-110 win on Saturday in front of a bloated crowd at Madison Square Garden.
Brunson wasted 16 of his 24 points in the first quarter, then buried the Western Conference leaders with a go-oop pass to Mitchell Robinson with 24 seconds left.
He secured the Knicks (42-31) their highest win total in a decade, surpassing 41 wins in the shortened 2020-21 pandemic campaign. More importantly for playoff ramifications, the Knicks trailed the Nets by two games for fifth place in the East.
“I appreciate it,” Josh Hart said. “I think we all appreciate it.”
After a largely back and forth contest, the Knicks trailed by 13 points midway through the third quarter. Then they took full control while beating the Nuggets, 45-26, in the final 18+ minutes.
“I think the fourth quarter was our best,” said Tom Thibodeau. “I liked the way we started the game. I didn’t like the way we played in the second quarter, but I think we came back pretty solid in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, we were at our best level was a number of people doing a lot of things well.
Two-time MVP Nikola Jokic filled the stat sheet as usual with 24 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. But he was overpowered in the final three minutes by Robinson, who added a decisive steal to Jokic to his decisive dunk.
It looked like a poignant performance after Robinson complained about his attacking role earlier this week. Robinson took just four shots on Saturday, but wrapping up a win against the best team in the West has a way of creating good vibes.
“We have faith in ourselves,” Robinson said. “We think we can beat anyone.”
The Nuggets (47-24) might have been ripe for a pick while losing for the fifth time in their last six games, but the Knicks also found ways to take advantage by grabbing 15 offensive rebounds.
Brunson broke the tie with a shot in the paint with three minutes left. About two minutes later, he strode to the foul line and was inundated with “MVP” chants.
“It’s special,” Brunson said. “I’m just happy we won and it’s a great fanbase to play up front and I appreciate that, but there’s still a long way to go before that.”
Josh Hart, who was also Brunson’s teammate in college, was more expansive about the importance.
“It’s really great for me to see him obviously, knowing him since 2014, watching his progress, watching him grow as a friend, it’s amazing because I’ve seen the work behind the scenes,” Hart said. “And he knows that and I have the most respect for him like almost any NBA guy or basketball player in general because he keeps grinding, keeps working.
“I think the biggest thing that sums it up is that he’s about to enter free agency, lucky enough to sign the biggest contract of his career that’s going to set his family up for a long time and we’re all two at Villanova and he’s over there at 6 or 7 in the morning, he beat me there. And he’s someone who, like I said, is about to sign an incredible contract, always ready to work, always willing to work, always hungry to work. For me, man, it’s just amazing to see. I saw the work. And that’s what he does.