The Knicks came out and got a much-needed win in a defensive slugfest against Donovan Mitchell’s Cleveland Cavaliers.

The New York Knicks (11-13) defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers (15-9) by a final score of 92-81 in a must-win game at home. They ended 1-1 in their back-to-back set of games this weekend and won by playing solid defense along with making some big effort plays down the stretch.

The Knicks were coming off yet another loss at home, losing to a sputtering Dallas Mavericks team who were led by a 58 combined point performance between Luka Doncic and former Knick Tim Hardaway Jr. It dropped their home court record to 4-7 prior to this win and led to plenty of boos from the crowd as a result.

They needed to get this win against a formidable Cavs team, which is headlined by star guard, and almost-Knick, Donovan Mitchell.

In the first quarter, the Knicks seemed to be playing the exact defense that has gotten them into trouble late in games – which is to say, far too much help in the paint. Once Mitchell took advantage of an open look in the corner for a three, the Knicks took an immediate time-out. He is a 43.5% three-point shooter, so that shot should have been a wake-up call for New York and their defense. Deuce McBride was one of the first guards off the bench, which is a change from having Derrick Rose sub in first alongside Immanuel Quickley. His defense, as well as the Knicks’ overall effort against the backcourt of Cleveland, was effective in the first. It held the Cavs to 16 points, the fewest points scored by an opposing team against the Knicks so far this season. New York ended up leading by seven through 12 minutes.

The second opened with a nice alley-oop from McBride to Obi Toppin as the Knicks kept up their intensity on offense.

Quickley and Brunson were especially formidable in the backcourt to begin the period. They led the Cavs 30-16 with just under 9 minutes left in the quarter. But, as the period winded down, turnovers started to burn the Knicks as the Cavs finally seemed to find their stroke. With one jumper from Evan Mobley followed by a three-pointer from Darius Garland, Cleveland was suddenly only down seven after New York had been up by nearly 20 points earlier in the second. After a number of turnovers to end the quarter, the Cavs had gotten back to within three by the half.

11 turnovers compared to Cleveland’s three led to yet another behemoth lead getting squandered by New York. They needed to emphasize not only protecting the ball but the three-point line as well if they wanted to try and contend in what felt like a must-win game at home for them.

To open the second half, neither team looked cohesive on offense. But, between the sudden resurgence of RJ Barrett after an abysmal first half and excellent team defense, New York looked like they were actually trying to fight off a run from the Cavs. Despite a number of traveling calls on both teams throwing off the momentum, the Knicks were able to retain the lead heading into the final period of regulation. They led 71-63, even though turnovers and travels abounded for both squads.

The fourth began with an immediate open look for Garland which he capitalized on to cut New York’s lead to seven yet again. That was followed up by a big three-pointer from Mitchell, but that momentum didn’t last long for Cleveland. The Knicks’ defense on him and Garland was simply too overwhelming thanks to the quick hands of Quickley and Brunson, and their scoring stayed consistent thanks to those two as well. Grimes was also great on help defense as the period winded down. Even though the Cavs got as close as five points within the Knicks’ lead, they were never able to overcome what ended up being an excellent defensive showing from New York.

There were 37 turnovers total this game, with most of those coming from the 13 travels committed by both teams combined.

The Knicks’ leading scorer was Brunson, who finished up with 23 points, four assists, and two rebounds. Julius Randle also had a solid outing with 18 points, eight rebounds, and four assists. Barrett, who left the game for most of the second half, still ended up finishing with 15 points on 5-13 shooting. He also had eight rebounds, an assist, and a steal. Mitchell Robinson had a good game once again on the boards, grabbing 13 while also getting three steals and a block. He also scored five points. Grimes was relatively quiet offensively but was solid on defense. He scored four points on 2-8 shooting with five rebounds, an assist, and two steals.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau went with a shorter bench tonight. Quickley saw the most playing time with 24 minutes on the floor and scored 12 points. He also had five rebounds and two assists. Isaiah Hartenstein was next highest with playing time, scoring 10 points, grabbing nine boards, and dishing out one assist in 14 minutes of action. Obi Toppin only played for 13 minutes but scored five, grabbed four rebounds, and had two assists. McBride did not score but had two assists off the bench.

The Knicks will now face off with the Atlanta Hawks at Madison Square Garden amidst rumored tension in the A between Trae Young and their head coach Nate McMillan.

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