Jalen Brunson, Knicks stymie visiting Nuggets on the road

🔊 Nuggets Podcast: Denver’s struggles, MPJ’s benching and the Nikola Jokic MVP debate

NEW YORK – Knicks guard Jalen Brunson shook Denver’s defense more than a New York subway ride.

The stocky, shifty guard bulldozed his way to 24 points Saturday afternoon, as the hometown Knicks knocked off the Nuggets, 116-110, in a rollicking afternoon showdown.

Despite superstar showings from Nikola Jokic (24 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists) and Jamal Murray (25 points, five 3-pointers), the Nuggets’ defense faltered late in the fourth quarter, and Denver fell to 47-24 and just 17-18 on the road. They’ll try to rebound Sunday when they face the Nets in another afternoon affair.

The Knicks snatched 15 offensive rebounds and owned a 20-12 advantage on second-chance points. The rebounding disparity (43-33) was glaring. Aaron Gordon finished with 14 points but just five rebounds. The Knicks dumped in 56 points in the paint, exposing Denver’s interior defense.

Denver began the third quarter the same way it ended the second: unimpeded. Murray served Jokic for a 3-pointer at the top of the arc, then Gordon found Michael Porter Jr. for another 3-pointer one possession later. Gordon capped the scoring binge with an alley-oop finish from Jokic, after New York’s defense keyed in on the two-time reigning MVP. The run was enough to irritate irascible Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, who picked up a technical foul midway through the quarter.

But the Knicks, in a testament to their newfound spirit under Thibodeau, responded. New York nailed three 3-pointers in barely two minutes’ time, and the Garden was alive. The Knicks had erased Denver’s 13-point lead and entered the fourth quarter locked at 91 all.

Nuggets coach Michael Malone attributed his team’s 34% 3-point shooting clip in March to fatigue after spending the majority of the season hovering atop the NBA at around 40%. Saturday’s first half was another reflection of that mark. But after a quiet start, the Nuggets shredded the Knicks for 39 points in the second quarter, doing significant damage from outside the arc.

Murray, who buried three 3-pointers in the first half, was instrumental in the assault. He, Jokic and Gordon all registered double-digit scoring efforts as the Nuggets erased a 13-point first-half deficit and carried a 67-62 lead into the break.

While it took Jokic time to settle into his offense, his teammates were more than capable of distributing. Gordon logged four first-half assists, while Brown added five of Denver’s 18 early helpers.

As Malone likes to say, Denver’s defense is predicated on its offense. When they’re scoring, it’s significantly easier to set their defense. And following a handful of debilitating quarters in recent games, it was encouraging to see the Nuggets flip the script on New York.

Brown paced Denver’s second unit that combined for 21 first-half points. That helped combat Brunson, who consistently burrowed into Denver’s paint, and New York’s nine offensive rebounds.

Back in New York, Malone said he planned to see family following Sunday’s afternoon tip against the Nets. In his default sarcasm, he thanked the NBA for granting Denver consecutive afternoon games in New York.

“I really appreciate the scheduling,” he deadpanned.

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Source:: The Denver Post – Sports


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