One night after defeating Cleveland (2-3) by 18 points in Ohio, the New York Knicks (2-3) hosted the Cavaliers at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks had spent the past week on a three-game road trip and, theoretically, it must have felt good to be home. You couldn’t have guessed it from their performance tonight.
Yet again, the Cavaliers were banged up. Coach JB Bickerstaff started Donovan Mitchell, Max Strus, Isaac Okoro, Georges Niang, and Evan Mobley. The Knicks were without one of their starters, too—RJ Barrett had tweaked his knee on opening night, and the injury caught up with him tonight. With RJ recuperating, Josh Hart assumed his position in the first five.
In a game in which Jalen Brunson scored his 5,000th NBA point, the Knicks struggled to cobble together 89. The Cavs limped past them with 95 points. Ugly loss. Here’s what happened.
If this particular game had a mascot, it would be Timmy the Turd Pile. One of the Knicks City Dancers could wheel this legless pile of steaming waste around atop a rusty red wagon, leaving a trail of brown bricks in their wake. How bad was the shooting? The two teams had managed only 10 points through the first five minutes and shot a combined 17-of-41 through the quarter.
In particular, the Knicks made only one (Josh Hart) of their seven three-point attempts. At least Grimes took more of an offensive focus, hurling three shots in the first three minutes (he attempted four last night). Sure, he airballed later in the quarter, but you must admire this defensive effort:
Donovan Mitchell was the only productive Cavalier through the first nine minutes. By the time he sat to rest, he had scored all of their 13 points on 5-of-7. His teammates had missed all six of their shots and while he sat, they went 3-of-5.
And notable: Brunson scored his 5,000th career point on this play. A floater, how apropos. RJ Barrett should reach the same milestone in his next appearance. He’s 16 points away, as memory serves. Congrats, Jalen.
The Knicks finished Q1 behind 24-22.
Deuce McBride came on for Jalen Brunson to start the second frame. The horrible shooting continued, but the assemblage of Deuce, Immanuel Quickley, Donte DiVincenzo, Hart, and Hartenstein was a fast-paced, fun crew to watch. They regained the lead before a Donovan Mitchell erased it.
The difference in energy between the subs and the starters is night and day. Enjoy this juicy goodness; there wasn’t much of it otherwise:
The two teams traded buckets, boards, and turnovers. Brunson was a steady presence for short stretches. He drew three charges through the first two quarters and, following the third, he scored on an and-one floater, collecting three points.
Randle seemed stuck in the mud or his head and looked like he needed a nap. In the first half, he scored six points on 3-of-11 shooting, plus two each of rebounds, assists, and turnovers. His totals are below. They ain’t pretty.
The Knicks entered halftime up by a sliver, 50-49. Timmy the Turd Pile must’ve been toot-tooting about the court at halftime, celebrating the foulness of the Knicks’ shooting 3-of-14 from deep, 19-of-47 from the field, and 69% from the free-throw line. Mitchell Robinson was primarily responsible for the Knicks staying competitive so far. In the first half, New York had controlled the paint, outscoring the Cavs there 26-16. Mitch had collected 11 rebounds (seven O-Boards!) to Evan Mobley’s four.
For the Cavs, their Mitchell continued to be their bright spot. By halftime, Spida had 23 points, with five threes and 7-of-12 from the floor.
Here’s how the teams distributed their shots through the half:
More turds, and even more brick-shaped. Both teams farted along, with the Cavs pulling ahead by as many as eight. With five minutes left in the quarter, the Knicks had scored five points, missed 13 of their 15 shots, and shot 35% against a half-staffed Cleveland team. Is it too soon to smash that panic button?
Donovan Mitchell was determined to win tonight. His defense was much better than the previous game’s effort. Behind him, the Cavs pulled ahead by seven. It felt like seventy.
Any highlights from this quarter? Only two that I recall. First, Jalen drew a FOURTH offensive foul before fading into non-existence. Second, Quickley scored nine of his team’s 13 points in the quarter.
In Q3, the Knicks shot 6-of-23 FROM THE FIELD and turned over the ball six times. They headed into the final quarter down 71-63.
“Hahaha!” cried Timmy the Turd Pile, laughing last. On any other night, these Knicks would be doomed. Fortunately for them, the Cavs were playing about as pathetically as our heroes, so a glimmer of hope remained. Despite the Knicks falling into a nine-point hole, Quickley and company kept trying:
Brunson checked back in and gave us a couple of encouraging flashes. His Villanova buddy DiVincenzo ran all over the court doing good things, including a well-timed theft. New York cut the lead to two, but then allowed Donovan Mitchell to score four straight going into the final minutes. Out of a timeout, Thibs rode with Brunson, Quickley, DDV, Randle, and Robinson, but these tigers weren’t changing their stripes as this game dwindled down to nothing. The Cavs converted just enough and the Knicks proved to be not so tough.
All told, New York shot 32-of-92 from the field . . . and 5-of-30 from deep. Blech.
- Jalen Brunson: 24 points, 8-of-23 FG, five rebounds, four assists, 39 mintues
- Quentin Grimes: five points, 2-of-7 FG, 1-of-6 3P, 22 minutes
- Josh Hart: 11 points, eight rebounds, three assists, 5-of-14 FG, 1-of-5 3P, 29 minutes
- Julius Randle: six points, six rebounds, four assists, three turnovers, 3-of-15 FG, 35 minutes
- Mitchell Robinson: six points, 16 rebounds, 4-of-8 FT, 32 minutes.
Quickley finished with 18 points, five boards, four assists, and shot 7-of-16 in 28. DDV added 16 points on 50% shooting over 30 minutes. Grimes? He rode the pine through the entire fourth. I’m . . . concerned.
But hey—through two games against the Knicks, Max Strus shot 1-of-12 from downtown. We have to take our joy where we can find it.
The ‘Bockers travel to Milwaukee on Friday for their first In-Season Tournament game. After tonight’s performance . . . who cares about in-season tournaments? This one stung, and stank. Get your rest, Knickerbockers.