Knicks 101, Cavaliers 91: "One in a row!"

USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks are close to clinching all they have to clinch.

Hooray! New streak! JetsFan718 called it. The Knicks showed no ill effects following their rough loss to the Bulls and twilight arrival in Cleveland. They handled the SEGABABA with aplomb, building the lead in each of the first three quarters, then holding on down the stretch while the big guns rested their big gun-legs. There wasn't much to it. The Knicks let Kyrie Irving go off a bit (though not very efficiently), and kept the rest of the Cavaliers from doing anything unusual. For the Knicks' own cause, Carmelo Anthony put in three workmanlike quarters and J.R. Smith went on a ludicrous scoring spree. That did it.

The win and Indiana loss set the Knicks' magic number for the second seed at one: The next Knick win or Pacer loss locks New York into their seed. The Knicks could make it extra clean by beating the Pacers themselves on Sunday, but they're in great shape either way. All that's really left is for the seeds below to align, hopefully in a way that provides the Knicks a straight, unobstructed path to that gold ball.

Just a few individuals worth mentioning:

- Melo did plenty of scoring off the dribble and off the catch, open, guarded, double-teamed, and triple-teamed. Nothing new, nothing particularly outrageous this time around. His most impressive contributions on this night were more bruiserly in nature. Tristan Thompson got his points and rebounds, but I thought Melo did a solid job denying him the ball, haranguing him when he made his move (Thompson had five turnovers), and boxing him out. Melo also ripped down seven offensive rebounds (14 total), though a lot of them weren't so much ripped down as tipped in, occasionally through contact. The Knicks played mostly without a big man, so Melo acted like a big man and did a fine job of it.

- J.R. actually had a pretty weak first quarter, which only magnifies how ridiculous the latter three were. He took a few semi-lame jumpers in the first, hitting only one of them. After that, J.R. simply stopped missing shots. He opened the second by drilling a left-elbow step-back, then proceeded to trample Wayne Ellington and Omri Casspi throughout the second quarters, getting to the rim for finishes and drawn fouls all the while. By the fourth, he'd achieved unconscious, immortal white heat, drilling a few jumpers off the catch, finishing an acrobatic and-one layup that made Clyde croon "Go ahead, J.R., work that body!", then burying an eleventh and twelfth straight shot before hitting the bench, presumably to be doused with pails of water. 31 points on 16 shots for our friend Earl. He could not be stopped.

- I said "mostly without a big man" because Solomon Jones-- SOLOMOJO-- made his Knick debut. The gawky 6'10" gentleman spun for 12 minutes and looked...well, like a guy who'd played most recently in China and had joined the team that same day, managing only to sign a contract and pick a jersey number (54) before tip-off. Jones looked pretty ragged on defense-- Thompson noticed this and plunged on him off the dribble-- and he hardly touched the ball on offense. It's nothing to fret over-- the dude's clearly not quite in shape and just looked addled from what was probably one of the crazier days of his career-- and, to Jones's credit, he set screens and navigated the floor nicely to create space for his new friends.

- Iman Shumpert resurrected what was otherwise a rough offensive outing (missed open jumpers, aimless dribbling, empty drives to the basket) with a couple late finishes in transition and a grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds.

- Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni both played perfectly adequate (if largely meaningless) defense on Irving and ran some splendid pick-and-rolls. My favorite from each guy: Kidd ran a straight-on pick-and-roll with Copeland, drew a hedging big man, faked a fake a kick-out pass, then rifled an entry into the rolling Cope for a finish. And yeah, I meant to say "faked a fake". He just kinda looked off the kick-out to freeze the hedger, then thread the needle into Cope. Earlier, Pablo dribbled all the way to the left baseline, then turned about face to receive a down-screen from Melo that absolutely befuddled the Cavs and freed Melo for an easy catch-and-make 18-footer.

- A couple Clyde lines from a conversation about meeting/balling with little kids as part of the Knicks' charity telethon: 1. "I'm undefeated in the ten- and eleven-year-old age group. I post and toast them." 2. "Sometimes I meet the kids and they're hyperventilating. They're hyperventilating, they're so excited."

- And one great Spero Dedes line after Kidd splashed a hiiiiigh-arcing, buzzer-beating jumper off a J.R. kick-out: "That one came down with moisture on it, it was so high."

- We saw a little match-up zone in the fourth. It went okay. Just worth noting that that's still a thing, since the Knicks once used it heavily in a game against the Celtics and are on pace to play Boston in the first round.

- Raymond Felton looked ever so slightly wobbly on the sprained knee, but not tentative or beleaguered. He only had to play 24 minutes.

And that's the best takeaway: Felton and Melo didn't have to play the fourth quarter and nobody new got hurt. Excellent night. Pacers on Sunday! Have a good night.

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