DENVER | 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.
As Randle coughed in the locker room with a bug that’s going through the team, Brunson was asked the key to the comeback.
“Julius Randle and Julius Randle,” Brunson said of the forward who also came up with a diving steal and feed to Brunson for a dunk in New York’s frantic finish. “When Julius is doing that, it’s big-time and we all feed off that.”
The Knicks, who allowed 145 points to Oklahoma City at home Sunday, 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 with Immanuel Quickley draped over him.
“We had enough to get it done,” Murray said. “We let go of the rope.”
Bones Hyland returned from COVID-19 protocols to also score 21 points for the Nuggets, who led by 10 points in the fourth quarter but 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.
“I heard about it, but we didn’t talk about it.” Brunson said of the streak.
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,” he said.
The Nuggets were also without Aaron Gordon (non-COVID illness), putting DeAndre Jordan and Jeff Green into the starting lineup.
The Nuggets looked disjointed using unfamiliar lineups. Michael Porter Jr. was 1 of 8 from the field, didn’t take a shot in the second half, and was held to five points. Denver, which entered shooting an NBA-best 50.4% from the field, shot 43.9%.
“They out-toughed us,” Hyland said. “Credit to them, but we should’ve won that game.”
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.
Knicks: 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.
Nuggets: Malone said he expects Jokic and Gordon to miss at least one more game. . … Fs Peyton Watson and Jack White were brought up from G League Grand Rapids. … The team debuted its white “City Edition” jerseys, which has “Denver” across the front and blue piping on the sides.
Knicks: At Golden State on Friday night in the third leg of a five-game, seven-day trip.
Nuggets: Consecutive games at Dallas on Friday night and Sunday.