A near-epic comeback fell flat on its face on Wednesday in Cleveland, despite the close heroics of Kevin Knox again.

The New York Knicks have decided to stay on brand as a fake comeback dropped their record to 8-21 against the lowly Cavaliers in Cleveland. The final score tells enough of the overarching story of the game, but the storylines kept the game interesting throughout.


 

Kevin Knox

The Knicks’ first-round pick Kevin Knox played a great game, finishing with 20 points and 3-of-6 shooting from three. His seven strong rebounds were encouraging as he pushed the ball upon coming securing the rock.

He played a bit too aggressively early on, committing two fouls in the first quarter but went unbothered by them for the rest of the game. Knox was instrumental in the third quarter comeback. The rebounding was good, but the late game slam was something to behold.

Knox was great in all of the situations he should be: on the fast break, in the paint, and spot up three-point shots. He also played crucial late-game minutes and returned to the starting lineup for New York.

This may have been another loss for the Knicks, but if this is any sign of his development, the moment may be more important than the game.

Frank Ntilikina

What else can I say besides “shamwow”? Frank Ntilikina ended the night with a well-balanced stat sheet scoring 16 points including 2-for-4 from three, four assists, three rebounds, one steal, one block. His 6-of-13 overall shooting numbers don’t tell the full story, however. Ntilikina was active on both sides of the ball like the statistics suggest, but the game-tying three after the Knicks had trailed by double digits to end the third quarter was something special.

Juxtaposed with his first few air balls at the garden, Ntilikina is shaping up to be a player the Knicks can be proud of.

Defensive Struggles

The 31-9 run in the third quarter is what everyone would love to talk about, and understandably so. However, Rodney hood scoring 13 points in the first period of basketball is never a good look. The Knicks allowed the Cavaliers to score 39 in the first quarter. A team this poor, especially with their injuries, shouldn’t score anything close to that. Enes Kanter, the Knicks’ starting center, and Tim Hardaway Jr. can be keyed in on as the culprits.

Hardaway Jr. can’t go over a screen quicker than a snail’s pace. Religiously, he extends his body like a go-go gadget machine instead of moving his feet until it’s too late. Kanter is deathly afraid to leave the paint—yet the wide-open jumpers he half-heartedly contest manage to hit so often, I wouldn’t be surprised if having him as a defender actually increased the probability of a field goal make.

It was a sad night for the team, but individually Knox and Ntilikina had repeat performances of their standout games versus Charlotte against the Cavaliers on Wednesday night. The general conclusion from both the good and the bad is that improvement needs to happen. Offensively, defensively, individually, and as a unit. It may seem like Emmanuel Mudiay gave up the game, but, until those final 40 seconds, he’d had a very successful second half of basketball. In fact, he wasn’t too far off from a triple-double. It’s a hurdle he’ll have to overcome, and the Knicks are no strangers to those.