|New York vs Denver|
|119 - 112|
Zach Randolph had 22 points and 17 rebounds, three other players scored more than 20 points, and New York erased a series of double-digit deficits to win 119-112 Tuesday night in the Denver Nuggets ' first trip to Madison Square Garden since last year's brawl.
"Coming in, you knew it was a big game," Randolph said. "Last year and the incident, guys had a lot amped up and wanted to win."
Seemingly on the verge of being run off the floor in the same way they were before their meltdown 11 months ago, the Knicks instead blew by the Nuggets with a fourth-quarter rally, then held on behind huge plays from Randolph and Eddy Curry in their best outing since being paired together.
"I think that's what Isiah had in mind when he brought Zach in here," Curry said. "I had a lot of fun tonight. This is probably the most fun I had in a basketball game."
Jamal Crawford led the Knicks with 25 points and Curry added 24, nine in the fourth quarter. Stephon Marbury had 21 points and nine assists, and Renaldo Balkman led a spirited bench effort with 11 points.
"Our whole team, I like the tenacity that we played with. I like the intensity that we played with," Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said.
Allen Iverson scored 32 points and Carmelo Anthony had 24 for the Nuggets, who led by as many as 15 and were still ahead by 10 going to the fourth quarter before dropping their second straight.
"It's early in the season and we did a lot of good stuff, but not good enough to beat a team that was hungrier than us in the fourth quarter," Nuggets coach George Karl said.
Iverson briefly had to leave the floor after bloodying his lip defending Marbury with under 2 minutes left, but everything else about the game was clean - unlike Denver's last trip here.
In that one, the Nuggets were 1:15 away from finishing up a 123-100 victory last Dec. 16 when Knicks reserve Mardy Collins took down J.R. Smith by the neck to stop a breakaway. Nate Robinson soon jumped in, and he and Smith tumbled into the front row while fighting. Anthony, leading the NBA in scoring at the time, dropped Collins with a punch and was suspended 15 games.
Seven players were suspended, each organization was fined $500,000, and the already cold relationship between Thomas and Karl grew even frostier after Thomas accused Karl of creating a dangerous situation by leaving his starters on the floor, and Karl fired back with a profane tirade.
There were no incidents this time, even when Smith had another breakaway late in the third quarter and Robinson was forced to foul to stop him.
Down 92-82 to start the fourth, the Knicks tied it at 102 on Curry's bucket with about 5 minutes left. After a final tie at 108, Marbury put New York ahead for good with two free throws with 2:32 remaining, then Curry blocked Marcus Camby 's shot on the other end and the Knicks stayed ahead from there.
"We had this game and we just gave it away tonight," Anthony said. "We had it in our hands and we couldn't maintain the lead. That was a team that played hard every possession. Maybe we took a couple of possessions off and they capitalized off that."
New York outscored Denver 37-20 in the final 12 minutes.
Robinson and Smith entered during the same stoppage with 3:56 left in the first quarter, with Smith making his season debut to loud boos following a three-game team suspension for an incident at a nightclub.
The Knicks shot 70 percent in a fast-paced first quarter, and still trailed 37-32. Linas Kleiza made all five shots and scored 12 points, Iverson had 11 in his first action at Madison Square Garden since late in the 2005-06 season, and the Nuggets shot 67 percent.
The lead grew to 50-35 when Eduardo Najera dribbled the length of the floor for a layup, bringing out the first boos directed toward the Knicks at home this season. But New York fought back to tie it at 60 before Denver ran off the final six points of the half.
"Last year we would have lost this game by 15 points," Knicks reserve David Lee said.
The Nuggets quickly restored the double-digit lead in the third, and again back came the Knicks, tying it at 82 behind a flurry from Crawford during an 11-1 spurt. The Nuggets then scored 10 straight to take a 92-82 cushion into the final period.
Notes: Denver F Kenyon Martin sat out so he could play Wednesday at Boston. The Nuggets aren't using him in back-to-back games while he works his way back from knee surgery. ... The game featured three of the top four picks from the deep 1996 NBA draft: Iverson (No. 1), Marcus Camby (No. 2) and Marbury (No. 4). Thomas drafted Camby while he was an executive in Toronto. ... Randolph is the first Knicks player to open a season with three straight double-doubles in points and rebounds since Patrick Ewing 15 years ago. ... The Knicks have sold out their first two games at MSG for the first time since the 2001-02 season.