Cavaliers can't get over the hump, fall to Knicks again 107-98 
            BY TIM SHIRER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - The Cleveland Cavaliers (39-21, 20-11) returned home to Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on Sunday night for the first of two very important games. The first against the New York Knicks (36-25, 16-14 away) who eliminated the Cavs 3-1 in the first round of the NBA playoffs a year ago and are as usual one of the darlings of the national media.

The two teams have met twice this season thus far splitting the pair of games. The games were a home/road back-to-back. The Knicks won the first game in Cleveland on Halloween night 109-91. The Cavs rebounded the next night at came out with the win in New York 95-89. But on Sunday night the Cavs Knicks problem continued as the Knicks out hustled and out played the Cavs just enough to pull out a 107-98 win.

The Cavs were without Donovan Mitchell (left knee soreness) and Caris LeVert (right elbow strain), and the Knicks were without Mitchell Robinson (left ankle surgery) and Julius Randle (right shoulder dislocation). Then just :47 into the game point guard Jalen Brunson left the game with an apparent knee injury and headed to the locker room. The game was low scoring early on and the Cavs jumped out to an 8-5 lead with 7:33 left in the first quarter on an Evan Mobley jumper. Over the next 3:32 the Knicks out scored the Cavs 15-4 to take a 20-12 lead with 4:01 left on the first quarter clock. The Cavs closed to 20-17 on a Jarrett Allen jumper with 3:17 left. The Cavs responded by taking advantage of bad decisions by the Cavs and took a 28-19 lead to close out the first quarter. Knicks guard Donte DiVincenzo led all scorers with 12 points. Isaac Okoro paced the eight first quarter points. The Cavs turned the ball over four times resulting in six Knicks points. New York also outrebounded the Cavs 15-11 in the first 12 minutes.

The Cavs pulled to within five points a couple of times in the first four minutes of the second quarter, but the Knicks responded every time and with 7:39 left Bojan Bogdanovic hit a jumper and was fouled by Evan Mobley, it was Mobley’s third personal foul, and he went to the bench. Bogdanovic hit the foul shot and the Knicks led 39-29. After the Knicks built their lead to 11 points the Cavs cut it to 43-40 with 5:12 left when Darius Garland hit Allen with a pass in the paint and the big man from Texas dropped it in the hoop. The Knicks called a timeout soon after. For the next several minutes the Cavs continued to cut the Knicks lead to three points and then at 2:45 Allen was fouled by Precious Achiuwa, and he hit one of two free throws to cut the Knicks lead to 47-45. Then with 2:09 left Garland cut the lead to 49-48 on a three. Finally, with :09.0 left on the second quarter clock the Cavs took the lead 53-51 on a three pointer by Garland as the shot clock ran out giving the Cavs a two-point halftime lead. Allen led all scorers with 13 first half points. Sam Merril had 12, all three-point shots and Okoro had 11. DiVincenzo led the Knicks with 12 points.

At halftime the Cavs had a special ceremony and retired Nick Gilbert’s bow tie and Gilbert got a banner in the rafter with other Cavs greats whose number and microphone (Joe Tait) have been retired. Cavs chairman and Nick’s dad Dan Gilbert was in attendance for the game and ceremony. Dan Gilbert has not made many public appearances since suffering a stroke over Memorial Day weekend in 2019.  

The halftime lead did not last long as the Knicks went on a 13-2 run to start the second half and take a 64-55 lead with 8:38 left in the third quarter. The Cavs answered back scoring seven straight points to cut the lead to 64-62 with 7:06 left on an alleyoop from Allen to Mobley. Knick curmudgeon coach Thom Thibideau took an immediate time out. With 6:02 left the Cavs tied the game 64-64 on a fast break layup by Okoro. The Cavs then turned the ball over twice and the Knicks scored the next seven points capped off by a DiVincenzo three with 4:43 left giving the Knicks a 71-64 lead. Once again, the Knicks responded and with 1:06 left in the third the Knick built their lead back up to 13 points at 83-70. When the third quarter buzzer sounded the Knicks had outscored the Cavs 36-23 to take an 87-78 lead into the final quarter. DiVincenzo led all scorers after three quarters with 28 points. Okoro led Cleveland with 17 points. Both Allen and Merrill had 15 apiece. The Knicks outrebounded the Cavs 35-30. Both teams had committed nine turnovers, but the knicks took advantage scoring 14 points off Cavs mistakes while the Cavs only scored seven of New York miscues.  

The Cavs cut into the Knicks lead with 7:27 left after Allen hit one of two free throws after being fouled by Bogdanovic the New York lead was 92-85. Then with 6:56 left Merrill hit a three pointer to trim the New York lead to 92-88. Once again, the Knicks responded when Bogdanovic hit a three at the other end and was fouled by Garland after hitting the free throw the New York lead was 96-88 with 6:38 left in regulation. The Cavs did cut the Knick lead temporarily to three points at 99-96 on a three by Garland. Once again with 3:04 left in the game and the Cavs had a chance to cut the Knicks lead to three points. Former Cavs Isaiah Hartenstein fouled Max Strus as he went up for the shot in the paint. Knicks coach Thibodeau, knowing he was coaching the Knicks challenged the blatant foul and of course it was overturned. Then two possessions later with the score the same the Knicks missed a shot, and the ball went out of bounds clearly off Hartenstein and the officials awarded the ball to the Knicks. Cavs coach JB Bickerstaff was livid and challenged the call. It was overturned because it was so blatant the officials had no choice, and the Cavs were awarded possession with 2:28 left in the contest. After a jump ball the Cavs had a give and go from Mobley to Allen then back to Mobley who slammed it home to cut the Knicks lead to 101-98 with1:59 left. The Knicks hit a three with 1:36 left and extended their lead to 104-98 on a three by Josh Hart. The final nail was put in the Cavs coffin with :33 left when Mile McBride hit a three from the corner to give New York a 107-98 lead sending the embarrassing 50% Knicks crowd home happy. 

DiVincenzo led all scorers with 28 points including torching the Cavs from behind the three-point line shooting 6 of 14. Merrill led the Cavs with 21 in a losing effort. Merrill scored every one of his points from behind the three-point arc hitting 7 of 13. Once again, the Cavs were outrebounded by an opponent, this has been a problem since the all-star break. The Cavs record is 3-4 since the season paused for game and things won’t get any easier in the next five days as the Cavs play three playoff contenders, two include the Boston Celtics and the Minnesota Timberwolves both are the number one seeds in their respective conferences.

The Cavs will be back in action Tuesday night when the Celtics (48-12, 19-9 away) come to RMFH at 7:30 pm. The Game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN. The Celtics won both meetings this season, both were in Boston on December 12 and 14th. 
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​POSTED 03/03/2024 21:58 
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Nick Gilbert's Bow Tie Banner hanging in the rafters.         Photo by Tommy Shirer