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Knicks 139, Cavs 134 (OT): “Starcus Morris”

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No fake comebacks need apply.

New York Knicks v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

With trade rumors swirling around half the roster, the Knicks trailed by double-digits early and late before a stirring comeback bested the Cleveland Cavaliers 139-134 in overtime. There was much joy evident on the roster on a night that started out more compelling for who might be gone than anything else.

Both teams were hot outta the gate. Cleveland went up 10 in the first, powered by 17 in the quarter from Kevin Love, but the Knicks used a late burst powered by Bobby Portis to cut into the gap. Your highlight possession of the quarter was when Julius Randle stole Love’s outlet to Collin Sexton just before halfcourt, drove and dished to a cutting Reggie Bullock cutting into the paint; Bullock kicked it out to Elfrid Payton near the deep elbow, who swung it to the corner where a wide-open Bullock camped out. Swish.

The second quarter was similar: the Cavs went up nine, then the Knicks clawed back, this time taking the lead. The bench came up big, outscoring the Cleveland reserves 31-6 by the break and 61-25 on the night. Speaking of big:

The prolific offense for both teams continued in the second half. Cleveland had 100 after the third quarter, which sounds impossible and quite frankly a little gross. But the game was actually fun to watch, in large part because for the first game all year, maybe, alllll the Knick point guards were bringing it, on both ends. Payton did a bit of everything. More than a bit, in fact; he notched his 17th career triple-double on the night.

Dennis Smith Jr. was getting to the rim. He was finishing at the rim. He was terrorizing Darius Garland on defense and getting steals and pushing the pace.

I miss this DSJ.

Frank Ntilikina looked at home playing alongside lead ballhandlers. He was a dervish on the defensive end, on multiple possessions appearing to guard every Cavalier, and he’d come through in the clutch with a big three-pointer.

Still, the Cavs were up 10 with the fourth quarter mostly gone.

Then Marcus Morris checked into the game and out of reality. He could not miss on a molten one-man run that evened things and sent the game to overtime. Cleveland went ahead early in the extra session, but it’s not how you start. It’s how you finish. Speaking of nice finishing:

Morris scored most of his 26 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. The moment of truth:

Comebacks never get old.

Notes:

  • Elf!
  • How hot was New York’s shooting? Of the 11 Knicks who played, the only one to shoot under 50% was Payton, who hit 8-of-17.
  • DSJ hitting 55% from the floor and 33% at the line is soooo DSJ. Still, there was spinning, winning, driving and thriving. Last night Smith looked like the player the Knicks hoped they’d acquired a year ago. Maybe he’s finally found his rhythm?
  • Ntilikina pulled in seven rebounds, tying a career-high.
  • 41 points, 23 assists and just 5 turnovers for the Knicks point guard ménage à trois.
  • On one inbounds under the Cavs’ basket, Ntilikina cut to the cup guarded by Garland. Frank, being bigger and stronger, just muscled Garland off him a few feet, took the feed from Payton and laid it in. Can you imagine the things Frank could do with a man body in 2-3 years? I’m still in bed this morning and am gonna do that right now..
  • Portis was instant offense off the bench. Like freebasing points, he was.
  • The Knicks scored 30+ points in all four quarters. That doesn’t happen a lot.
  • This was the New York’s eighth road win, tying their total from all of last season.
  • Just like the win in Indiana, the Knicks won in part from being the better team at the free throw line. The Cavs shot 57% from the field and 51% from deep, but made just 12-of-18 free throw attempts. The Knicks shot 56% from the field and made eight fewer threes, but were 15-of-21 at the stripe.
  • Also like the Indiana game, the Knicks owned the glass in this one.
  • Sexton has a Ntilikina-esque ability to never quite convert shots that would fundamentally change your feelings about him. Sometimes it’s a near alley-oop or a daring lay-up attempt that if he made it you’d look at him with different eyes. But he doesn’t.
  • In the second quarter Garland checked in for Dante Exum. As Exum neared the sideline, he had a brief exchange with Cleveland coach John Beilein. Beilein didn’t look thrilled with Exum about something, and as Exum passed by him his arms gestured kinda frustratedly. Beilein appeared to give up the subject; Exum turned and was shaking his head as he went to the bench. After the game Garland defended his head coach from criticisms, so may it’s all ado about nothing.
  • My father was a terrific athlete. He was a catcher who was scouted by some MLB teams. He played high school basketball, even appearing in a game at MSG. He was his high school soccer team’s goalkeeper, and when he went off to college he was his dormitory’s boxing champ. He’s run nearly 20 marathons. I was a good athlete as a kid, but I never neared his resume. I think of that when I think of Larry Nance Jr., a respectable role player who will earn at least $50M in his career, versus Larry Nance Sr., a three-time All-Star. I think of what Michael Corleone said to Fredo in Havana.

Quoth Walt Clyde Phraser: “Starcus Morris.” He sure has been of late. We’ll see if Morris is still around and still cooking when the Knicks host Orlando Thursday.