By Brian Mahoney, Associated Press
NEW YORK — If Charles Oakley couldn’t stop Nikola Jokic, at least he would’ve tried to hit him.
Oakley is banned from Madison Square Garden, and the Knicks played Friday like his old-school style of defense wasn’t allowed, either.
Jokic scored a career-high 40 points to lead the Denver Nuggets to a 131-123 victory over New York.
Fans chanted Oakley’s name early in the game and booed the Knicks by the end after seeing none of the defensive intensity that was a hallmark of his beloved teams of the 1990s.
“Tonight it was bad,” Carmelo Anthony said. “As players we’ve got to take that upon ourselves and hold ourselves accountable for that and we have to do better. We have to do better on the defensive end.”
Jokic scored 18 points in the Nuggets’ 36-point third quarter after they trailed at halftime by two. He was 7 of 9 in the period.
“In that third quarter, they just, ‘Throw him the ball inside.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, they trust me,'” Jokic said. “I feel good. When you know that your teammates trust you, it’s real easy to play.”
Former Knicks forward Wilson Chandler added 19 points and Jameer Nelson had 16 points and 12 assists for the Nuggets, who shot 56.8 percent from the field.
Anthony scored 33 points against his former team and Kristaps Porzingis added 17, but Jokic dominated the matchup of second-year big men from Europe.
The Serbian center was 17 of 23 from the field and added nine rebounds and five assists as the Nuggets reached 120 points for the eighth time in their last 16 games.
“The Garden is a special place. I grew up knowing that being from this area and for Nikola to put up 40, nine and five in front of the Garden crowd, the legend will continue to grow,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “When you do it here you kind of cement yourself in terms of the NBA and being a real player.”
The Knicks shot 56 percent themselves, but never got particularly close in the fourth quarter and lost their fourth straight.
“We need some new energy,” Porzingis said. “We go out there and they score 50 points in the first quarter or something like that.”
It wasn’t that bad, though the Nuggets did score at least 30 in every quarter.
Oakley was arrested after an altercation with security guards on Wednesday, and Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan announced Oakley had been banned from the arena during an ESPN Radio interview, though said he was open to reconciling with the forward.
Fans chanted “We want Oakley!” and “Free Charles Oakley!” in the first quarter, but the chants soon turned to jeers as the Nuggets repeatedly scored.
Nuggets: Denver played without Danilo Gallinari (strained left groin), Kenneth Faried (sprained right ankle) and Emmanuel Mudiay (lower back). … Will Barton came off the bench for 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Knicks: Brandon Jennings had 13 assists but shot just 2 for 10 from the field. … The Knicks haven’t won the season series since 2002-03, the season before Anthony entered the NBA.
DOLAN ON JACKSON
Dolan said during the ESPN Radio interview that he won’t fire Phil Jackson or stand in the way if Jackson tried to trade Anthony. The Madison Square Garden chairman promised Jackson full control when he hired him and plans to honor his commitment to stay out of the way the remaining 2 1/2 years of the deal — if Jackson doesn’t opt out of it this summer.
And Dolan wouldn’t comment on whether he hoped the Knicks would keep Anthony.
“I’m not going to go there because that’s meddling with Phil,” he said. “That’s telling him how to do his job and I’m not going to do it.”
The Nuggets have won five straight and 13 of the last 17 meetings.
Nuggets: Visit Cleveland on Saturday, then host Golden State on Monday.
Knicks: Host San Antonio on Sunday in their final home game before the All-Star break.