The Knicks’ 111-104 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers was like all your friends telling you a restaurant is no good, but it’s Saturday night so you go anyway, and your drink is an expensive watery waste, the appetizer’s cold, and your entree disappoints, but the dessert was actually enjoyable, which almost made the rest of the night worth it, only you’re left waiting forever for the bill, so your night ends with you remembering what a numbing disaster it all was.
Kyrie Irving was out with a sore right quad. The Knicks are nothing if not hospitable hosts, so with Derrick Rose unavailable thanks to a bad ankle, Joakim Noah suffered a sore hamstring six minutes into the game and was done for the night. The opening eight minutes were exciting end-to-end action: fast breaks, ball movement, lead changes, blocked shots. A lot of things were happening, in particular LeBron James assisting. He had six in the first quarter, helping the Cavs to the lead.
Cleveland scored 64 in the opening half and led by as many as 20. The Cavs offense looked like it had an idea what shot it wanted and found it. The Knick offense looked like a feral animal: Whatever came their way, they were biting. The Knicks switched their bigs on every LeBron pick and those bigs chose the lesser of two evils, playing back and hoping for a jumper instead of playing up on him and risking a blow-by. James was in a rhythm all night, though, especially when he had eight feet of space to get into a shooting rhythm, so this strategy just enabled a bunch of three-pointers.
The blowout reached 84-57 late in the third. The Knicks were God-awful from downtown and missed half their 28 free throws. Carmelo Anthony picked up fouls two, three and four in a blink. Then, on a night the Knicks honored the 1989 Bomb Squad, Jennings channeled Isiah Thomas (the Isiah who killed the Knicks as a Piston one night, not the Isiah who killed them as president and coach year after year after year after year, and not the Isaiah Thomas killing them this year), spearheading a 14-0 run with 11 points in just over three minutes.
A Mindaugas Kuzminskas three pulled the Knicks within 10, but the Cavs got Willy Hernangomez switched on James and Willy played about eight feet off LeBron, who drilled a three. A minute later Cleveland got the exact same switch, and again Willy left James acres to shoot, though he missed. A Willy tosser (that sounds painful or sublime) cut the lead to single digits, and he got out on the break after the next Cavs’ miss, but Jennings’ outlet became a turnover, then an Anthony three rimmed out and KP committed his fifth dumb foul and Kyle Korver hit free throws and that was the end of the fake comeback.
Only it wasn’t. Another Willy lay-in made it 106-97. Carmelo pressed James a bit bringing it up court, which mild as it was was novel enough to make James start thinking about other stereotypes he might reconsider and force an eight-second violation. Hernangomez found Courtney Lee cutting underneath and then MELO STOLE THE BALL FROM LEBRON and dunked it. 106-101!
But LeBron got a Tristan Thompson pick and the one time a Knick big didn’t Maginot Line in full retreat, James drove past Hernangomez, forced Porzingis to contest at the rim, then threw a lovely lefty hook behind his head to Love for a corner three. Lipstick, meet pig.
- Carmelo aggravated his right shoulder in the opening minutes stealing the ball from Love. 2017 Melo in a nutshell: reminding you of his value, then reminding you how inherently fleeting “value” is.
- In the second, Anthony, after hearing some boos, drew a foul and then appeared to wave his finger “No” when the crowd cheered. I didn’t think much of it, but maybe others did. Did you?
- Dumb fouls all night from Porzingis. You could pick almost any of them as the standout. I prefer his fourth, in the fourth, attempting to hand off to Jennings 30 feet from the hoop. The dumb fouls were especially painful in light of the fact that although his shot wasn’t falling, he was protecting the rim and rebounding.
- Has anyone ever seen Jeff Hornacek and Mike Woodson in the same place at the same time? Maybe it’s more about personnel than philosophy; maybe lots of teams, or at least lots of bad teams, struggle defending the pick-and-roll. It’s the game’s oldest play for a reason: It’s tough. But this team year after year seems to switch itself to death. We’re sure Horny’s not Woody in disguise?
- Since 2003, nobody’s figured out how to stop LeBron in transition. On one fast break, the Knicks went Aikido and decided to not even try and stop him pushing the ball. Philosophically, this audacity was almost exhilarating. But mostly, it was suicide.
- In the first half Love dribbled past Hernangomez and dunked. LeBron, Richard Jefferson, and someone who hasn’t given me a reason to learn his face leapt off the bench and celebrated on the court. Probably no big deal. Probably just salty from the Cavs playing flip-bottle last time at MSG. Probably old-fashioned, tired of seeing the Knicks dominated again by Cleveland, of seeing Jefferson of all people living it up. Rubs in old 2000s New Jersey Net dominance wounds. But isn’t bench guys celebrating on the floor during play a technical foul?
- Jefferson has an “RJ” tattoo on his upper left arm. I want you to know that. I don’t want you to forget.
- In recent games the Knick guards have shown a tendency to give Porzingis the ball on the break when he’s 15-20 feet from the hoop. Jennings did this to Kyle O’Quinn, too. Undoubtedly there’s a reason they do this. Undoubtedly I don’t get it.
- There are a million different ways to explain LeBron’s greatness. Here’s 1,000,001: it’s 2017, and Channing Frye and Richard Jefferson are key pieces on a championship contender.
- I’d like someone to re-make the movie Se7en and cast the “The Andersons got tickets to the game! How’d they get tickets?” guy as the victim of envy.
- I’d forgotten that ABC brought Magic Johnson to their halftime show until tonight. Stands to reason karma transcends spacetime, and so we not only incur debt from past sins, but down the road wrongs, too. We all must have some upcoming straight stygian shit on our hands to get stuck with studio Magic again.
Quoth SomeoneFamous, “Not for me.” This loss stung. No more of these, please. Tired of the tired. The Lakers come to town Monday. That’s a start. Could be.