In a game that came down to the wire, the Knicks held off the Cavs at Madison Square Garden to snap their losing streak.
The New York Knicks (25-23) outlasted the Cleveland Cavaliers (29-20) by a final score of 105-103 in a tightly contested game. They finally won a close game at home and snapped their four-game losing streak against a strong Cleveland team in the process. Despite some late-game heroics from Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland, the Knicks were able to put on the clamps and get the win.
New York was without Evan Fournier on the bench as he was out for personal reasons, but the Knicks also got Immanuel Quickley back after he missed their last two games with a sore left knee.
The Cavaliers lost to the Knicks in their last contest back in early December, but they won their first matchup against the ‘Bockers in November. Both teams have gone in opposite directions as the season has progressed, with the Cavs sitting fairly high in the Eastern Conference’s standings and the Knicks slipping down due to a four-game losing streak leading into tonight.
The first quarter began with a three-pointer from Julius Randle after solid ball movement between Jalen Brunson, Jericho Sims and Randle. That movement helped get New York’s offense a nice flow, and their defense in transition was solid as well. The Cavs, after not doing a good job of reading many of the cuts Brunson or Barrett were finding for points, eventually picked up their defensive intensity. As the period progressed, both teams looked efficient on offense with Donovan Mitchell getting into a rhythm and almost all Knicks starters getting in on the scoring. Barrett and Randle were especially formidable from the floor, scoring a combined 26 points. But, the Knicks’ defense was permitting far too much in the paint for the Cavs, once again feeling Mitchell Robinson’s absence. Fortunately, New York’s bench provided a much-needed spark — a change of pace from their recent production — with the return of Quickley and Obi Toppin to close out the quarter on top.
The second opened up with a foolish foul from Quentin Grimes — a personal foul on Caris LeVert on a three-pointer that was then elevated to a flagrant foul. But, almost immediately, Quickley responded on the other end of the floor by drawing a foul of his own and finishing the shot for an and-1 opportunity. The bench was able to keep the Knicks up as starters slowly trickled back onto the floor early in the second quarter. Their defense was stout, which was definitely needed after such a scoring-heavy first quarter from both teams. And, their ball movement had remained high since the first quarter, with 19 assists in the first half alone as a team. Even with Brunson struggling from the floor and as a facilitator, Quickley was able to fill in the holes. As the quarter winded down, though, Knicks players looked sloppy on both ends of the floor. They ended up letting the Cavs climb back into the game by the half, and they were only down two as the first half finished up.
Cleveland hit an uncontested three-pointer and a two-pointer to open up the third, which was followed by three quick one-and-done possessions by New York. This allowed the Cavs to retake the lead early in the period. Turnovers were also an issue for the Knicks, as they committed three in the first few minutes of the quarter. The Knicks needed to get back into rhythm on offense, and that meant passing the ball as they were in the first half. Mitchell was also beginning to heat up, so New York really needed to double down on their passing and quick decision-making to keep this game a contest. As the quarter was in its final minutes, the Knicks finally seemed to be back in the game with some much-needed defense in the paint and hard-fought points from Randle and Brunson. Grimes also hit a timely three-pointer towards the end of the period that got the lead back for New York, with Randle hitting a last-second three-pointer himself to get the lead to five as they entered the fourth quarter.
Toppin, who sat for much of the game, came in to open the fourth and immediately scored with a three-pointer and a transition layup that got New York an even larger lead of ten. Even with Darius Garland cutting in and out of screens with ease, he wasn’t able to capitalize on his opportunities. The Knicks’ defensive intensity was maintained early in the period and it was translating to easier looks on offense for them. Unfortunately for New York, Mitchell started to heat up once again and was hitting long-range triples and got Cleveland back to within two about midway through the fourth. As the pressure intensified, it became a fight of rebounding, second-chance opportunities and tough shots for both teams. While their respective defenses were solid, it was all a matter of who could get a stop or not.
After Cleveland tied things up at 100 apiece with about two minutes to go, Randle hit a huge three-point shot to get New York back up by three late. Two clutch free throws from Brunson got them up by five with 40 seconds to go. It was tense in the final moments of the game with the Knicks up two with 15 seconds to go and the ball in Cleveland’s hands after two errant shots from Randle and Barrett. But, Isaiah Hartenstein played excellent defense against Mitchell to close the game out, and after a rebound found itself in Evan Mobley’s hands, he missed. The game, and the Knicks’ losing streak, was over.
The Knicks’ top performer was Randle, who had 36 points, 14 rebounds and four assists. Barrett had 16 points, three rebounds, and assist and two steals. Brunson had 14 points, four assists, two rebounds and a steal. Grimes finished up with 10 points, three assists, a rebound and a block. Jericho Sims ended up with two points and four rebounds.
The bench was solid tonight, with Toppin leading the way with 11 points and three rebounds. Quickley had nine points, five rebounds and six assists along with a steal. Hartenstein had four points, nine rebounds, four assists, a steal and two blocks, while Deuce McBride had three points, three assists and a rebound.
New York will move on to their next tough matchup against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on Thursday night.