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 Denver's first trip to Madison Square Garden since last year's brawl.
Seemingly on the verge of being run off the floor in the same way they were before losing their cool 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.
"Our whole team, I like the tenacity that we played with. I like the intensity that we played with," Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said.
Iverson briefly had to leave the floor after bloodying his lip defending Marbury with under two 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 Nuggets sorely needed to find more scoring. So they stepped up their efforts to get Iverson, acquiring him from Philadelphia just after the suspensions were announced.
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. And though players from both teams insist everything about the brawl is in the past, the icy relationship between George Karl and Thomas hasn't gone anywhere.
Thomas accused Karl of creating a dangerous situation by leaving his starters on the floor after the Knicks had already pulled theirs. Karl fired back with a profane tirade in which he said the situation was "premeditated" after hearing Thomas had cautioned Anthony not to go to the basket shortly before Collins' foul.
Neither coach wanted to talk much about the other this week, and Thomas cut short his session with the media following Monday's practice moments after he was asked if he and Karl had chatted this summer at the Las Vegas Summer League.
"Tonight's game has an extra intensity to it. It has an extra energy to it," Karl said earlier Tuesday. "But as I've said in the last couple of days, the regular-season games that have a passion and an intensity to them usually make for good basketball if you stay professional and stay focused."
Down 92-82 to start the fourth, the Knicks tied it at 102 on Curry's bucket with about five 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.
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.
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.
- 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.