Dogfight. Cleveland 95 NY 89

The Knicks couldn’t hit a shot all night — 5 for 30 from 3 (16%) — yet their defense kept them in it to the final minute — it was a dogfight.

But Immanuel Quickley missed a drive where the ball rolled in and out with 1:13 left and NY down 5, and Caris LeVert hit a 3 and that was ballgame.

A tough loss for the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on a Wednesday night. NY had beaten Cleveland the night before in Cleveland.

NY was without RJ Barrett, who was scratched just before the game with left knee soreness. Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen were out for Cleveland.

“I think it’s a little bit of everything,” said Julius Randle afterwards. “We’re not getting anything easy. I feel like we’re just working hard for everything right now.”

1. DMitchell On Fire in 1st Half

Donovan Mitchell came out hell bent on avenging the loss of the night before in Cleveland. Back in his home town of NYC and MSG — the place where he so much wants to play — he scored Cleveland’s first 13 points before taking a seat with 2:55 left in the quarter — it was NY 14 Donavan Mitchell 13.

Mitchell continued to score in the 2nd quarter and had 23 points at the half. But the Knicks maintained the lead — up 50-46 until Caris LeVert hit a 3 with 1 second left to make it 50-49 at the half.

For the Knicks, Jalen Brunson was doing his thing and Donte DiVincenzo picked up the scoring slack of the missing RJ Barrett. DiVincenzo had his best game as a Knick with his hounding defense, ball movement, and outside shooting. DiVincenzo finished with 16 pts on 5-10 shooting (3-7 from 3; 3-5 in free throws).

2. NY DEFENSE Contained DMitchell in 2nd Half

After halftime the Knicks concentrated their D on Mitchell and sent him out of sorts — he did not score in the 2nd half at all until hitting a big 3 with 2:36 left in the game.

Quentin Grimes, Josh Hart, Donte DiVincenzo, and Miles McBride all took turns guarding Mitchell straight up or helping to harass him.

Isaiah Hartenstein provided big man defense on the 2nd team — 3 steals and 6 rebounds in 16 minutes.

3. NY Couldn’t Hit a Shot in 3rd Period

But NY couldn’t hit a shot. Miss after miss from 3. NY was outscored 22-13 in the 3rd period as Cleveland took control on the scoring of Caris Lavert, Evan Mobley, Max Struss, and two killer 3’s from the corner by Dean Wade (one in the 3rd quarter and one in the 4th).

4. Knick DEFENSE Kept them In It

It wasn’t Mitchell Robinson‘s fault — he was BEASTING and FEASTING inside — dominating everyone including Evan Mobley standing there. Robinson had 16 rebounds — 8 offensive and 8 defensive — and 2 blocks to go along with 6 points.

“Bigs watch Mitchell Robinson work the offensive glass,” commented NBA Analyst Ross Kreines on Twitter. “With rebounds he can’t control, he plays volley-ball that lead to 2nd chance opportunities for himself, others and some open 3’s. He doesn’t just rely on athleticism/length as he understands how to use his lower body/positioning.”

Jalen Brunson meanwhile, was taking charge after charge — 5 charges for Cleveland offensive fouls. “Just the sagacity & tenacity of this guy,” said Walt Frazier on the broadcast about Brunson. “Willing to sacrifice his body; reading the mind of the opposition. So you have to be very adept when you come in there off the bounce. He’s been able to baffle & befuddle the Cavaliers.”

5. But Knicks Couldn’t Hit a Shot

The Knicks as a team hounded Cleveland and there were times they looked like they were about to take control of the game — but NY just couldn’t hit a shot.

Quentin Grimes was 0-5 from 3 before finally hitting a 3 late in the 3rd. Quickley was 0-3 from 3; Josh Hart 1 for 5 from 3.

Robinson was only able to hit 1 of 4 important free throws in the final minutes of the game — something he was working on all summer. He has said he has instituted a better arc to his free throws but is still throwing up line drives.

5. Randle Still Out of Sorts After Ankle Surgery

And Julius Randle was completely out of sorts — 3-15 shooting including 0-6 from 3 for 6 points, only 6 rebounds, and 4 assists in 35 minutes. He drew much ire from Knick fans on Twitter.

Afterwards, coach Tom Thibodeau didn’t seem at all concerned about Randle — and talked about how he is still getting his rhythm back after surgery to his ankle in the summer, plus the fact that it was the second game of a back-to-back.

“Anytime a player has surgery there’s going to be a (slow start),” said Thibs . “It’s just because its different in the offseason, particularly for him — because he has pretty strong routine he likes to adhere to. And this summer was different. It will come around for him. He has to go thru things, and the more that he does it the better he’ll get.”

6. The End Game

With all that, NY pulled out of a 79-70 deficit with 6:27 left and came within 79-77 after scores by Quickley and Brunson.

But Mitchell Robinson missed the 2nd of 2 free throws and Donovan Mitchell hit his first shot of the 2nd half — a 3 — then scored next time down after missing a 3 but grabbing his own rebound for a drive and Cleveland was back up by 7 — 84-77 with 2:02 left.

Brunson hit a 3 to give NY hope — pulling them within 5 — but then Quickley missed the drive (see top of article) and Lavert hit the 3 down the other end for the old ballgame.

The Boxscore


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