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Cavs 95, Knicks 89: “Will the Knicks prolong the agony?”

Milestone night for Brunson, not so much for Randle.

Cleveland Cavaliers v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

We welcomed November 2023 on Wednesday but if you look at the final 95-89 score in the basketball matchup played between the New York Knicks (2-3) and the Cleveland Cavaliers (2-3) you might as well have thought we’d just landed on December 1982.

At least on that day, the Knickerbockers went on to win a game, led by a sublime performance by the trio of Bernard King, Bill Cartwright, and Trent Tucker combining for 55 points and giving their foes fits inside MSG, before a crowd of 9,615 souls.

Didn’t happen in this the 2023rd year of our Lord.

After beating Cleveland on the road and in their anticipated return home, the Knicks flopped. Let’s not sugarcoat this thing and go straight to the facts, quotes, and soundbites following this disaster.

Knicks with a positive plus/minus: Donte DiVincenzo (+1)

Knicks starters shooting 35% or better from the floor: Josh Hart (35.7%)

Knicks playing 30+ minutes and not attempting a free throw: Julius Randle (35:15)

“We didn’t make shots tonight,” Tom Thibodeau said. “But if we defend and we rebound and keep our turnovers down, we’ll be in position to win.”

That’s facts, too. The Knicks lost the war but won the rebounding battle, with Mitchell Robinson pulling down 16 boards, half of them offensive. New York edged Cleveland 50-46 on the glass. Not even the extra opportunities and the steal advantage (10 to 7) helped this squad.

No wonder why.

The Knicks hoisted 92 field goals and shot 30 freebies. The Cavs logged 74 attempts from the field and 20 from the charity stripe.

The Knicks shot 34/16/66. The Cavs shot 43/37/95.

One of those splits is good, the other is not. Go figure.

The problem with the silly bad scoring numbers? “Spacing,” said Randle. “Everything is just pretty packed in. We’re just looking at a lot of bodies out there whenever we’re catching the ball. We’ve just got to figure out a way to open it up a little bit.”

Randle completed his 600th NBA game yesterday. He has attempted zero free throws in 51 of them. He got 35+ minutes of run on Wednesday, mind you. He had only experienced the no-call-treatment nine times when playing for at least those minutes. Bonkers.

Jalen Brunson bagged his 5,000th point with about six minutes left in the first quarter. He finished with a team-high 24. That’s more than 25% of the total points scored by the Knicks. Only Immanuel Quickley (18) and DDV (16) approached that figure.

No other starter bar Isiah Hart put up more than six pops, and Hart enjoyed the benefit of hitting the starting five because of a wobbly knee smacked right in the middle of RJ Barrett’s leg.

I’m starting to fear Quentin Grimes will leave the Knicks in a similar way to how Obi Toppin did. QG is getting the starts, the reps, the minutes, and everything else—but touches. He’s on a pitch count, self-imposed or not, and that worries me. Are the Knicks using him on offense as much as they should? Should Thibs and the rest of the coaching staff green-light and ramp up his shooting diet? One has to wonder.

Miles McBride played nine minutes, stole a couple of balls, and scored three points. Isaiah Hartenstein was nowhere to be found on the scoring front dropping a goose egg (he contributed six rebounds, two dimes, and three thefts.)

Thibs keep believing. I keep believing. You better keep believing. But it’s five games already and things aren’t getting much better.

“It looked like [Randle] had some real aggressive drives to the basket,” Thibodeau said after the game. “Julius is not an easy guy to officiate because of his strength. But there was a physicality to it, so he’ll figure it out.” Again: no freebies given. Were the zebras wrong or is Thibs trying to find hope where it’s none?

If there is anything I don’t want to get even remotely close to, it is this type of thing. Peep.

“I stay even,” Randle said after the game. “[Shots] will fall eventually. It’s a long season, 82-game season.”

Quickley backed his veteran, saying “I don’t doubt Julius at all.” The reserve guard added “If you look at what he’s done since he’s been here—he’s probably one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around.

“I’m sure he’ll bounce back.”

With Barrett missing this game after seemingly suffering a knee injury last week in the season-opening game against Boston, Randle’s own summer ankle surgery and injury concerns popped up after the game when Thibs was asked about it.

“Any time a player has surgery there’s gonna be [an adjustment] because it’s different in the offseason, particularly for him,” Thibodeau said after the game. “He’s got a pretty strong routine that he likes to adhere to, and this summer was different. It’ll come around for him.”

Donovan Mitchell cooked the Knicks in the first half of Tuesday’s matchup scoring 23, but New York limited him to three points in the second half. Mitchell finished Wednesday’s game with 30 points shooting 9-of-22 from the floor, 6-of-15 (fifteen) from beyond the arc, and a perfect 6-for-6 from the line.

There was a point early in the game where the score read NYK 14, DM 13. That’s because no other Cavs player scored a point until there were just 2:42 remaining in the first quarter.

The Knicks were close, mind you, and had they scored just reasonably in the third quarter (they lost that period 22-13) they might have snatched their third win of the season. Not on Wednesday.

With less than three minutes left New York was looking good being down a couple of points, 79-77. Mitch Rob missed a freebie and the Cavs went on a 10-1 run from there that pretty much sealed the deal for them.

“You’ve just got to find a way to win those games,” Quickley said. “Tired, not tired—making shots, man, making shots. You’ve got to find a way to scratch out those wins.”

On to face the Bucks (2-2) on the road come Friday, Nov. 3, in the first game of the new NBA In-Season Tournament for both teams. Tip-off at 7:30 ET. Don’t miss it (no, seriously, is the first-ever NBA Cup game, and you always want to witness history for the good or the bad!)

Quoth hockeybeaverton by way of Clyde: “Will the Knicks prolong the agony?”