By Jeffrey Bernstein, Associated Press
NEW YORK — A 23-point third quarter lead vanished in less than six minutes, before Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. combined to make sure that the deficit was short-lived.
Porzingis scored a career-high 38 points and Hardaway Jr., who re-signed with New York as a free agent for $71 million, scored all 13 of his points in the fourth quarter to help the Knicks beat the Denver Nuggets 116-110 on Monday night.
The Knicks had taken their biggest lead of the game, 69-46, on Courtney Lee’s layup with 10:38 left in the third quarter. However, the Nuggets responded by scoring the next 13 points to ignite a 27-2 run and they took their first lead, 73-71, on Wilson Chandler’s free throws with 4:42 left in the third quarter. The Knicks committed 10 turnovers during that six-minute stretch.
“We had a lot of turnovers. It was one of the worst quarters we’ve ever had,” Porzingis said. “But, we are going to learn from this game.”
The game was tied 77-77 when Doug McDermott’s 3-pointer put the Knicks back in front for good with 1:09 left in the third.
New York led 84-81 going into the final quarter. Will Barton brought the Nuggets to within one, 89-88, with 9:50 left in the game.
But, Hardaway Jr. scored the Knicks’ next 11 points, including three 3-pointers, and Porzingis’ jumper with 5:35 left gave New York a 104-95 lead.
“I made some big shots and I was happy about that,” Hardaway Jr. said. “They were contested, but once you see one go down and you start feeling yourself a little bit it helps my confidence and the team’s confidence.”
Denver responded by scoring the next seven points and pulling within two on another pair of Chandler free throws with 3:10 remaining.
But, Jarrett Jack hit a long jumper and Lee added two free throws and the Knicks were able to hold on down the stretch.
“Fourth quarter, too many mental breakdowns. Lack of discipline to give Tim Hardaway Jr. three straights 3’s and he was the one guy we were supposed to be running off the line,” said Nuggets’ Head Coach Mike Malone. “So, just poor game awareness.”
Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with 28 points and Jamal Murray scored 20.
Kyle O’Quinn added 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Knicks. Lee and Enes Kanter each had 12 points for the Knicks. McDermott finished with 11 and Jack finished with 10 assists
Gary Harris scored 18 points, Emmanuel Mudlay had 15 and Barton added 13 for the Nuggets.
Nuggets: Denver had won the previous five meetings with the Knicks. New York’s previous win in the series was a 109-93 victory at Madison Square Garden on November 16, 2014.
Knicks: New York’s three-game winning streak is its longest since they won four in a row last season.
Spending time in the Garden
Monday’s tilt with the Nuggets marked the beginning of a five-game homestand for the Knicks.
Siblings Willy Hernangomez (Knicks) and Juancho Hernangomez (Nuggets) were on opposing sides Monday night. Willy got off the bench to play just over three minutes, while Juancho was inactive due to an illness and did not attend the game. “I was really looking forward to seeing him,” Willy said. “But, he has mono and is being quarantined right now. Maybe for another few weeks.”
The Nuggets could not keep their hands to themselves in the second quarter, committing their fifth foul and putting the Knicks in the bonus at the 8:24 mark. New York went on to outscore Denver 30-18 in the 12-minute session.
Nuggets: Host Toronto on Wednesday. The teams will play again in Toronto on March 27. The Raptors won both matchups last season.
Knicks: Host Houston on Friday. The teams last met on New Year’s Eve 2016, with the Rockets posting a 129-122 victory. They play again in Houston on November 25.