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 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 three-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 three-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 threes and he was the one guy we were supposed to be running off the line,” Nuggets coach Mike Malone said. “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.