Another Big Tease. Knicks Blow 9-pt Lead in 4th. Cleveland 121 NY 108

The Knicks devoured the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 3rd quarter, turning a 10-pt, 2nd-quarter deficit into a 9-pt lead — but then coughed it up as they allowed first Kevin Love and then Donovan Mitchell to go NUTS from 3 in the 4th quarter.

Love hit 3 (three) 3-pointers early in the quarter to pull Cleveland within 4, and then Donavan Mitchell hit a 4-pt play — getting fouled while hitting a 3 — to tie the game 99-99 with 7:25 left. Love followed with a 4-pt play — getting fouled while hitting a 3 — to give Cleveland a 104-101 lead with 5:20 left, and Cleveland was off to the races, leaving NY in the dust.

Mitchell tossed in some spectacular drives and finished with 38 points on 12-20 shooting (8-13 from 3), 12 assists, and a +18 — to thoroughly crush NY and seemingly show them why they should’ve traded for him.

When asked if he was playing with extra incentive, Mitchell said not necessarily: “I always love playing against my home team. It’s easy to point to the summer and say that, but I’m pretty much friends with everybody on that team. So it’s always nice to play against your guys. I wouldn’t say I used it for that; that’s not what it is.”

Cleveland’s defense — one of the better defenses in the NBA statistically despite having Mitchell and Love playing — also shut down NY in the final quarter, allowing them only 15 points.

NY falls to 3-3; Cleveland is 5-1.

1. Cleveland with Strong Inside/Outside Game

Obi Toppin was guarding Love in the 4th — and one would have thought that after Love hit the first 3, Toppin would have been on him like Glue. But he wasn’t. And Love kept getting open for 3 after 3 — Toppin getting over just too late.

Part of the problem is that Cleveland has a strong inside/outside game. The Cavaliers are one of the leading 3-pt shooting teams in the NBA — they have multiple ways to do damage inside that frees up excellent shooters from the outside.

Donovan Mitchell is a threat on the drive, and they have Evan Mobley to dominate under the basket — so teams must play that — and that opens up the likes of Love or Dean Wade, or Mitchell to shoot from outside.

The 6’9-inch Wade killed the Knicks early in the game from 3 — he was 8-11 overall, and 6-8 from 3 for 22 points. Wade is in his 4th year with Cleveland — averaging 10 ppg this year. He was undrafted out of Kansas State.

2. Mitchell Plays Like Superstar

As Wally Szcerbiak stated after the game — Donovan Mitchell showed why he is a star, and why, in Wally’s words, you have to pay a lot to get a star. Mitchell took over in the 4th and made everyone around him better. He dominated. The Knicks didn’t have that guy. Julius Randle, Jalen Brunson, and RJ Barrett had good games — but they did not take over like Mitchell did.

The word “superstar” was overused in the 70’s and now is hardly used at all. It’s been replaced recently by “Generational Talent”. Mitchell is considered by most to be a Top-20 player in the NBA — a star. Not necessarily a Superstar, and certainly not a Generational Talent.

In this game Donovan Mitchell played like a Superstar. Randle, Brunson, and Barrett had “solid” games.

The term “Solid” has taken on new meaning in recent years — a purposeful underplay of Great — used first by ballplayers to describe another ballplayer’s star performance. In this game — Randle, Brunson, and Barrett were “solid” in the old way the term was used.

3. Barrett Strong Early

The Knicks were having a great game until Love took off in the 4th.

RJ Barrett started off the game with efficient scoring. He was 3-3 from the floor (2-2 from 3) early, matching the early scoring of Donovan Mitchell. Barrett finished with 15 points on 6-10 shooting (3-4 from 3).

But then Mitchell started to take off in the 2nd quarter, outpacing Barrett, and Cleveland’s pressure on the rim opened up 3-pt shooting from Wade, helping Cleveland take the 9-pt lead.

4. Brunson Led Knicks at End of 2nd and in 3rd

Brunson started taking it to Mitchell — the strategy to take advantage of Mitchell’s reputation for poor defense and put him on his heels; make him work. NY pulled to within 62-59 at the half — and dominated in the 3rd.

Obi Toppin was unleashed in the 2nd — and he made several terrific drives off feeds from Immanuel Quickley or Brunson. Toppin finished with 9 points on 4-7 shooting (1-3 from 3) in 15 minutes.

Part of the Knick story was also Evan Fournier, who shot 6-9 (3-5 from 3) for 16 points.

Julius Randle also played well — finishing with 15 points on 5-13 shooting (0-3 from 3), 9 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals.

5. Robinson Early Foul Trouble; Hartenstein “Solid”

Mitchell Robinson got in early foul trouble, forcing Isaiah Hartenstein to play 27 minutes. He had a solid game — a truly “solid” game — nothing fancy, but efficient and good — with 12 points on 6-10 shooting, and 9 rebounds.

The Boxscore






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