DEFENSE — Jan 20, 2020: NY 106 Cleveland 86

The Knicks did what they were supposed to do — beat Cleveland by 20 in Cleveland. They did it with DEFENSE. Coach Mike Miller has a method of calling a timeout whenever he sees a breakdown in the defense, to fix it. In a recent game that timeout was 3 possessions into the game. By the 3rd quarter of this game, the Knicks defense was HONED — Cleveland got only 14 points in the 3rd as the Knicks forged a 15-pt lead. They increased it to 20 by allowing Cleveland only 22 points in the 4th, some of them coming in garbage time when the Knicks let up a bit.

Elfrid Payton and Frank Ntilikina took turns SHUTTING DOWN Collin Sexton, Cleveland’s high-scoring guard. Sexton was 6-20 for 17 points and a -20. Darius Garland, Cleveland’s other small, high-scoring guard was worse — the rookie was 4-20 for 11 points and 1-6 from 3.

Payton (4-11 for 9 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists) penetrated and orchestrated. Frank Ntilikina (2-5 for 6 points in 20 minutes) played very good ball on both ends — at one point stuffing Sexton in the lane. Coach Miller noted that Ntilikina and the whole second team including Kevin Knox, played excellent ball at the end of the 3rd and into the start of the 4th to really ice the game.

On offense, Marcus Morris (8-16 from the floor) and Julius Randle (7-17) worked the front court — doing the heavy lifting with 19 points each on good shooting. Taj Gibson played 21 strong minutes — 10 pts on 4-5 shooting. The Knicks were without RJ Barrett with the badly sprained ankle, but Reggie Bullock played well in his absence (12 pts on 5-10). And Bobby Portis was out there doing his thing — missed a defense help rotation at one point in the 1st quarter but made up for it immediately with rolls to the basket for buckets — he finished with 12 points on 5-9 (2-4 from 3) in 21 minutes.

Cleveland defended Mitchell Robinson‘s alley oop slams — taking away the spacing — Tristan Thompson in particular — as NY Post beat reporter Marc Berman had noted before the game that teams were strategizing to do. Robinson only had 2 points in 27 minutes on 1 shot — he was 0-1 but made 2 free throws. He still impacted the game with good interior defense — another reason why the Cleveland guards shot so poorly as he was there in the middle on the few times they did get past Payton or Ntilikina. Robinson had 6 rebounds and 4 blocks. He is still making some mistakes on rotations; still learning but he is 21.

Knicks fans on twitter were hoping Mitch would take a 3-point shot late in the 4th with the Knicks up 20, but it never came. After the game, Mitchell Robinson felt it necessary to tweet this:

For Cleveland, Tristan Thompson was tough on the boards all night — but Robinson and Gibson held their own. Coach Miller noted that one of the turning points was that early in the game, the Knicks big men were not cleanly getting rebounds, and therefore the fast break was suffering. Once they started to cleanly grab the rebound and set the break, the Knicks were able to get something going.

For Cleveland, Kevin Love did not help much; he seems to have become a spot-up 3-pt shooter and nothing much more, as noted by MSG on-air analyst Alan Hahn afterwards.


Damyean Dotson also played well — part of that second team that Miller was talking about that played so well at the end of the 3rd into the 4th.

The Boxscore



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