After the Knicks consecutive wins over the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings, New York fell short of three straight Sunday, falling 111-105 to the Nuggets at the Pepsi Center in Denver and ultimately splitting the past week's four-game road trip. >> Box Score
Five things to know from Sunday's game
1) Starting point guard Frank Ntilikina gave the Knicks the energy they needed on both sides of the floor in their effort against the Nuggets. Ntilikina nabbed three steals and pitched in 13 points and five assists.
2) Dennis Smith Jr. missed his third straight game as he recovers from an illness, so the Knicks relied on backup point guard Elfrid Payton, who netted double digits yet again.
Payton produced on the scoring side of things with 10 points, following 14 and 16 against the Warriors and Kings, but he made his mark off the bench as a key facilitator. Payton dished out a game-high 11 assists for the double-double.
3) Team-high production from starting forwards Marcus Morris and Julius Randle led the way in the box score, and each came up big with timely buckets down the initial stretch of the fourth quarter, but the Knicks got strong efforts across the board. Five players -- including forward Kevin Knox's 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting off the bench -- reached double figures for the Knicks, who moved the ball well with 20 team assists. Elsewhere off the bench, centers Mitchell Robinson and Bobby Portis chipped in with eight and nine, respectively, to round out the third straight offensive performance of 103 points or more.
4) While the Knicks fell behind early, seeing an 11-point first-quarter hole deepen to a 20-point margin at the 7:54 mark of the second quarter, New York did not go away quietly. The Knicks trailed 67-51 at halftime, but the Nuggets -- coming off Saturday's 110-102 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder -- started slowing down.
After the Knicks chipped away throughout the third quarter, cutting the Nuggets' lead to 87-84, they carried their momentum into the fourth quarter with a 9-2 run through the opening 2:32 -- capped by Randle's layup in transition -- to recapture the 93-89 edge at the 9:28 mark. The Knicks grew the lead to five points, 96-91, with 8:16 left on a three-point sequence between Ntilikina's technical free throw and center Taj Gibson's ensuing dunk.
5) After the Nuggets cut the Knicks' lead back down to 100-99, Denver ran New York out of the building. As the Knicks went on a four-minute scoring drought, the Nuggets cashed in, scoring eight straight points into the 1:31 mark to command a 107-100 lead. Denver point guard Jamal Murray, who complemented center Nikola Jokic's team-high 23 points with 12 of his own, stuck the dagger into New York when he knocked down a step-back triple from 26 feet out with 1:32 left in the fourth quarter.
The Knicks got their first bucket since the 5:57 mark of the fourth quarter, when Randle sunk a running floater from six feet out at the 5:57 mark, to end the drought on shooting guard RJ Barrett's three-pointer with 11.2 seconds left in the ballgame. The Knicks followed Randle's floater by going 0 for 11 from the floor before Barrett's triple. After Barrett chucked up a shot from long range on the final possession, Portis caught the airball uncontested under the rim and added a garbage-time put-back to polish off the 111-105 final.
The Knicks return to action against the Atlanta Hawks (6-21) Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. from Madison Square Garden in New York. The team regroups Wednesday and Thursday, followed by Friday's 8 p.m. road trip to the Miami Heat (19-7) and Saturday's 7:30 p.m. home game against the Milwaukee Bucks (24-3).