The Knicks keep their fun times while Garden roars to beat the Nuggets
The final gasp of the best team in the West was a long 3-point effort from the Nuggets’ peerless Nikola Jokic with 21.1 seconds left. She didn’t stand a chance. Knicks’ Josh Hart rose to hit his eighth rebounding trap of the afternoon, and the 19,812 people inside Madison Square Garden did likewise, leaping to their feet, and giving their hoots to a groovy soundtrack.
The Nuggets decided to concede. No fouls, no defensive pressure. The fight is done. game over. The Knicks would have won a very entertaining game, 116-110, Seconds melt merrily, masses roar with lust.
A few Knicks clapped their hands as an appreciative thank you to the Garden fans. And a few of them took pictures with Jason Sudeikis and Brendan Hunt of “Ted Lasso” sitting on the court. Only a few of them are mired in adulation. Good times in the park.
“I love playing here,” Jalen Bronson gushed just seconds after the final buzzer, after posting a career-high 24 points and five assists in his first complete game in two weeks. “It’s the best place to play. The best fan base.”
That was on Saturday afternoon. It sure was lately. The win was the Knicks’ sixth in their last seven games at the Garden, which is where they belong It looked like anything but a home fun dome earlier in the year. Last time out at The Garden, the Knicks bit their toes against the Hornets, a game that felt like an ominous omen at the time.
Bronson was in pain. They were facing a four-game West Coast swing with this game against Denver lurking on the other side of them. For Knicks fans accustomed to seasons going sideways at the first available opportunity, it felt like a real flashpoint for a season that was beginning to feel relentlessly happy.
In fact, they have thrived. They won the last two games of the trip, both times without Bronson coming from behind, against the Lakers and Trail Blazers. The schedule makers gave them a break, three days off between the end of the trip and Saturday afternoon, and that certainly helped lessen the usual NBA fact that a team is no more vulnerable than playing the first home game after a Western swing.
And then on Saturday, the Knicks built a 13-point lead before trailing them by 26 over the next quarter and a half. The boisterous crowd in the first quarter became alarmingly quiet as the Nuggets built up an 84-71 lead midway through the third period.
said RJ Barrett, who made 21 points on 8-for-13 shooting (8-for-10 from inside the three-point arc). “They played great on both ends of the field but Jalen’s comeback was big for us today. We got a well-balanced attack from everyone.”
They did. Julius Randle (20), Josh Hart (13) and Emmanuel Kwikley (10) join Barrett and Bronson in dual figures. Center tandem of Mitchell Robinson and Isaiah Hartenstein prevented Jokic from starting (though he still sparked on 10/24/8), and it was Robinson in an open alley from his Bronson feed that put the Knicks six short. And the party began in earnest.
“The fourth quarter was at our best,” said head coach Tom Thibodeau. “We’ve had a number of people do a lot of things really well.”
Naturally, it helped get their drive back.
“Galen completes us,” said Barrett, channeling Jerry Maguire.
“It’s conductive,” said Thibodeau.
In the first quarter, Bronson was unpredictable, missing a first shot and then making six out of seven. A little relief crept into his game over the next few quarters, but by the fourth quarter, he was back, made several huge shots, and found Robinson in that game-critical dunk, listening to the MSG regulars serenade him with MVP songs.
It’s a good time to be Galen Bronson. Good time to be nick. And as we head to the Bell’s lap in March, how about this: It’s a good time to be a Knicks fan.
“We have to keep it going,” Bronson said, then took a final wave around the park, facing Knicks fans who couldn’t make it to the subway sidewalk yet, or the postgame saloons. Really good times.