Knicks blown out as RJ Barrett limps off in final seconds

DENVER — The lowest moment of the trip came late in the second quarter Tuesday when Nuggets guard Bones Hyland gave a forearm to Kemba Walker as he stepped back for a 3-pointer.

Walker hit the deck, flat on his rump, looking at the referee, laughing in disbelief when a whistle didn’t blow.

Hyland held the ball, peered at Walker, then at the rim and fired in a 3-pointer after which the Nuggets sharpshooter pointed his index finger right at the aging Knicks point guard.

The Knicks were knocked out of their senses by the powerhouse Nuggets, knocked to the floor and fell to 0-3 on the trip after a 132-115 rout at Ball Arena.

They may not be able to get off the canvas with the trade deadline Thursday and team president Leon Rose aiming to reshape the roster, maybe in fire-sale fashion.

And to add insult literally to injury, coach Tom Thibodeau’s silliness of keeping key players in late in blowouts finally may have cost him dearly. RJ Barrett crumpled to the court after taking a bad step and had to limp off with 18 seconds left in the rout.

RJ Barrett, going up for a shot, had to limp off the court in the closing seconds of the Knicks’ 132-115 blowout loss to the Nuggets.
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Hyland’s bucket gave the Nuggets a 66-34 lead. Bystander Julius Randle, away from the play, threw his arms up in disbelief.

Later, Randle, who finished with 28 points, was in referee James Capers’ face for calling a non-shooting foul when he thought he was hit in the act of shooting. He looked to Thibodeau, signaling for him to ask for a replay review and the coach ignored the request.

It was a night of disrespect and not unexpected with their two centers — Mitchell Robinson and backup Nerlens Noel— injured.

Reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic had an easy night with 21 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in 30 minutes.

Nuggets’ Aaron Gordon slams home a dunk during the Knicks’ blowout loss.
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It figured to be ugly and it was as the Knicks fell seven games below .500 (24-31), falling behind by as many as 27 points.

They lost 31 games all last season in a 72-game schedule.

It was 83-60 at halftime — the highest point total in a half the Knicks have given up this season and second-highest they have allowed since forming 75 years ago.

In the opening half, the Nuggets (30-24) shot 62.8 percent (30 or 47). Hyland, Jokic and Aaron Gordon each had 14 by the break. Hyland made all three of his 3-pointers, including the one with Walker on the deck.

The Knicks actually had a six-point lead in the first quarter with Randle coming out on fire. But the Nuggets soon got past them and were up 40-26 after one quarter.

Randle ended the half by blowing a fast-break layup that led to a Gordon 3 in transition.

Jokic got smoking inside and the Nuggets started drilling 3-point shots off Knicks turnovers — one hideous interception by slumping Immanuel Quickley. Cam Reddish, playing in Quentin Grimes’ injured absence, was a minus-15 in five minutes.

“Expectations were really high with the season they had last year,” Denver coach Mike Malone, a former Knicks assistant, said beforehand. “And expectations are always hard, for any team. I know it’s been a weird year for the Knicks, guys in and out of the lineup. All that stuff. I can’t speak to that. You know Julius is still a really tough cover [and] RJ Barrett.”

The only good news was a gaggle of Knicks fans in the Mile High City chanting Obi Toppin’s name when he shot free throws hours after officially being named as an All-Star Slam Dunk participant.

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