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Cavs 125, Knicks 118: “This has been some 5th quarter shit”

The winning was fun while it lasted.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at New York Knicks Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

On this date in Knick history four years ago, a life lost.

Eight years ago today, a hope born.

On this date 16 years ago — never forget.

18 years ago? Fugheddaboudit.

Tonight’s 125-118 fake pull-ahead at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers will not go down in Knick history, and that is the best thing to come out of this game. To think I let myself relax watching New York lead throughout; to think I could think “You should totally trust a 13-48 team to maintain control.” My heart and my mind damn me for a fool.

Early on there were good omens. The Knicks hit five of their first six shots. Lance Thomas was hitting. Everyone was hitting. Dennis Smith and Kevin Knox both got in early foul trouble, but Emmanuel Mudiay and Allonzo Trier came in and didn’t miss a beat. Last time these teams met Larry Nance Jr. feasted on the Knicks’ frontline. Tonight the kitchen was closed.

The first quarter ended with as pretty a disallowed halfcourt swish as you’ll see.

The second was the time of separation, followed by a coming together again. Henry Ellenson a.k.a. Hood Euro’s bombs helped New York build the lead they’d enjoy much of the game. Mitchell Robinson was able to enjoy a looong stretch on the floor ‘cuz he wasn’t in foul trouble. Speaking of enjoyment: beautiful ball movement’s beautiful no matter who’s doing the moving.

Less enjoyable: it seemed like every time Collin Sexton made a three, it’d rattle around the rim all clunky. Sexton threes look like food going down the wrong pipe.

After Ante Zizic had a few baby hooks fail to go down, he finally connected to give Cleveland its first lead with 3:00 left in the half. The last few minutes of the half had the open floor up-and-down pace of an All-Star game, with the perk of both teams actually giving a damn. The closest marriage of those two qualities I’ve ever seen was the ‘92 Dream Team. If you’re lucky there’ll be moments in your life as a sports fan you realize while they’re happening that you’re privileged to witness. For me, that’s the ‘86 Mets, the ‘94 Rangers, the Dream Team and Manchester City in 2012. You?

It was still close through the third for a while, until the Knicks went on another run. Hood Euro hit another three. A Robinson dunk followed by a Trier three-pointer followed by a Trier transition lay-up, followed soon thereafter by another Trier transition hoop put New York up eight. The third ended on a premature high note.

Your official premature high note was a Damyean Dotson pull-up early in the fourth that put the Knicks up 14. The lead was large and all the Knicks had the knack. There was a sense of inevitability.

There shouldn’t have been.

Dotson came flying in for a baseline throwdown and ended up thrown down himself, landing hard on his keister courtesy of Larry Nance Jr. He took his free throws and then the Knicks fouled immediately and got him out of the game. He wouldn’t return. Nance fouled out after a pick on Noah Vonleh that led to a collision the Richter scale picked up. Adding insult to injury (Nance did look a little shook up), the refs reviewed the play and called it a flagrant. Vonleh would miss both free throws.

Another Ellenson triple put the Knicks up 109-100. But Collin Sexton was a beast in the late-and-close phase of the game.

Cedi Osman hit a trey to pull the Cavs within one. A devastating unforced turnover by DSJ (right as Mike Breen was jinxing the Knicks by talking about their low turnover numbers of late) was stolen by Jordan Clarkson, who drew a clear-path foul by Trier on the breakaway. Clarkson hit both free throws, and on Cleveland’s next possession he hit a corner three.

Trier would miss a three-pointer, and Robinson, perplexingly, would foul Sexton. But he missed both! And next thing you know Zizic caught an Ellenson elbowson and was down on the floor in agony, and the Knicks had a 5-on-4 on the other end, but Trier missed a lay-up and Kevin Knox a desperation three, and then it was just dotting “i’s” and crossing “t’s” until the buzzer sounded. That’s 10 straight wins at MSG for the Cavaliers, who also swept the season series. Wait’ll LeBron leaves. Then the tide will turn.

Notes:

  • A career-high six assists (against no turnovers) for Dotson.
  • Not quite the 75 to 7 stunner from Tuesday’s win over Orlando, but New York’s bench put it to Cleveland’s by a 59-39 margin.
  • Vonleh’s most productive game in a while. He missed four free throws late, but he was generally an active presence tonight, which he hasn’t been for a bit.
  • I suspect the game was lost once Knox missed his last Hail Mary of a three. But it would have been nice, if the Knicks were going to continue competing beyond that point — which they appeared to be doing — to have tried something, anything beyond Mitchell Robinson fouling Kevin Love the instant the ball got inbounds. I’m with Breen on this matter: I think teams do themselves and certainly the drama-seeking public a disservice by not giving an honest effort chasing a steal before fouling as a last resort. They’re content just to foul. Come on, NBA. Give me something I can use.
  • A lot of entry-level NBA players are afraid to put up shots. Especially after they get a few looks early, they’ll pass up the next good look just to be sure nobody thinks they’re chuckers. Henry Ellenson does not live with that fear. Dude has no qualms putting up shots.
  • Hopefully Knox spends his offseason working on vision and passing.
  • Every few minutes in these matchups Love shoots a three or posts up and scores and it’s like watching that one D-I player in a pick-up game at the Y who just coasts for long stretches, content to work up a sweat, and only every now and then, to keep himself present, he’ll get a bucket. I imagine Love is waiting for the day he’s traded to a real team. Actually, he’s pro’ly just waiting for Cleveland to win another draft lottery, select Zion and be back in business next year.
  • This was Lance’s second double-digit scoring output the last three games. He’s looked good lately. I mean, Lance Thomas-level good. Which is like being drunk on Boone’s.
  • Trivia: The last two years the Knicks won a playoff series were 2013 and 2000. What player appeared on both those Knick teams?
  • I’m a fan of Mudiay increasingly using the threat of the Mitchell lob to get himself open free-throw line jumpers.
  • Good point by Breen: Trier got off to a hot start this year, then the league seemed to catch up and he struggled for a while. But as of late he’s having success again, as if he figured out a counter to the counter. Like a hitter who enters the league crushing fastballs, word gets around, he gets a bunch of off-speed stuff for a stretch, struggles, and then figures it out and starts hammering curveballs and changeups. From late November to last week, Trier only scored 20+ once. Tonight was his second such outing in a week.
  • Mitchell is starting to scare me. He’s so good and so growing. Legit: how many Knick rookies have shown this combination of production and potential since 1985? Kristaps? Anyone else? No? No.
  • On one sequence in the first half, Dellavedova was matched up against DSJ. Smith passed to Trier, who used a Robinson pick to drive toward the paint. Dellavedova collapsed, so Trier kicked it out to Smith. Dellavedova ran out to recover, but between his...let’s be kind...workmanlike foot speed, plus Smith having the advantage of forward momentum, there was literally no way for Delly to stop Smith. Not that he didn’t try by throwing a shoulder-check toward DSJ. He missed, but he should’ve gotten a red card and an ejection for that. Pure cynicism on his part.
  • That same possession Trier iso’d Dellavedova into an and-one. Had him jumping and flailing every which way before Allonzo put him out of his misery.

See the still shot of the video? That’s him trying to catch Smith with his shoulder. I’d sign a petition to get Dellavedova out of the league. Every time you watch him play he hurts someone or tries to. That works in hockey ‘cuz dudes like that eventually gotta fight. They gotta defend themselves. Add legal fisticuffs to the Association and Delly’s out of the league overnight.

  • Trier, of course, is no less physical driving than Dellavedova is defending. Watching them matched up was like seeing two neutron stars collide.
  • One reason I feel okay about Knox’s future is I think his ceiling is as a scorer, and mad players who make you think “If he only had a floater he’d be sick” never get that floater. Knox already has one. He threw in a couple in the fourth, one from 15 feet out.
  • On one push up the floor Sexton was flying and his hair was flying and I’m 100% cool that he’s not a Knick, but you watch games for reasons that have nothing to do with winning, and that man’s hair flying in the breeze when he’s full speed is some good reason. He must’ve gotten whacked in the chompers ‘cuz his mouth was bloodied dead-center and looked super cool when they showed a replay.

The camera movement was extremely purposeful and intelligent throughout, subtly illustrating the nature of Collin’s existence in this space. It reminded me of something Mike Conley might do.

  • If Sexton action figures ever get mass-produced, that little rat-tail in the back of his hair would be a pretty cool accessory for kids. Easy to pick him up with. Harder to lose him.
  • I recently saw a video that illustrated what a four-dimensional square looks like, which opened my mind while also making no sense. Lance Thomas missed a baseline pull-up so badly it took what looked like a four-dimensional ricochet off the side of the backboard. Opened my mind. Made no sense.
  • I imagine Kevin Love smells really good. I like to imagine it.
  • Walt Clyde Frazier: Turncoat? Or does he just run deeper than we bother to plumb?
  • The big winner tonight wasn’t Cleveland. Nor was it the Knick tank.

Quoth cctoastt: “In 7th grade I played basketball. My friends and I were so bad they invented the ‘5th quarter’ when all us dorks would go out and fall down and bounce the ball off our feet. This has been some 5th quarter shit.” The fourth was def that sorta fifth. Next chance to put together a complete game is Sunday when the Knicks kick off a Western swing at the Clippers. Hope that fourth’s a legit fourth. Wa-Alaikum-Salaam.