Cavaliers sloppiness on offense and lack of defense costly in 130-116 loss to Knicks     
            BY TIM SHIRER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - Friday night the Cleveland Cavaliers (48-29, 30-8 RMFH) played what could be a first round playoff matchup as they are the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and welcomed the fifth seeded New York Knicks (44-33, 22-16 road) to Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

The historic (according to the national media) Knicks had a 118-104 series lead over the Cavs all-time entering the game. However the Cavs were 64-47 all-time against the Knicks in Cleveland (Cleveland Arena, Richfield Coliseum, RMFH). On Friday night the Knicks gained a game on the Cavs in Cleveland easily defeating the Cavs 130-116.

The Knicks were without big man Julius Randle in the game. The Cavs were down two starters Jarrett Allen and Isaac Okoro. New York took an early 5-2 lead then Darius Garland cut the lead to 5-4 with 10:23 left after being fouled by RJ Barrett. The Cavs then tied the game 5-5 when Donovan Mitchell hit one of two free throws after being fouled by the Knicks Obi Toppin. Early on there was definitely a playoff type feel in the crowd at RMFH. The Knicks then took an 11-7 lead after Jalen Brunson hit two free throws with 8:44 left on the clock in the first quarter after being fouled by Lamar Stevens. The Cavs then took their first lead of the game at the 8:10 mark after Mitchell hit a floating jumper to tie the game 11-11 and was fouled by Quentin Grimes and put the Cavs up 12-11 after draining the free throw. Mitchell continued his hot shooting giving the Cavs a 15-11 when he drained a three with 7:37 left on the first quarter clock. The Cavs extended the lead to 22-16 with 6:26 left in the first when Caris LeVert drained a three forcing Knicks curmudgeon like head coach Tom Thibodeau to take a timeout. With 5:06 left on the clock in the first the Cavs extended the lead to 27-20 on another three pointer, this time by Cedi Osman on a nice pass from LeVert. The Knicks responded and tied the game 31-31 with 3:55 left in the opening quarter. Cleveland regained the lead and extended it to 37-33 with 3:09 left when Garland hit Mitchell with a nice pass and he drained a three for his 21st point of the opening quarter. Mitchell then decided to share hitting Evan Mobley in the paint. Mobley slammed it home while getting fouled by Josh Hart. Mobley hit the free throw and gave the Cavs a 40-33 lead with 2:10 left. New York was not going away cutting the lead to 40-38 with 1:11 left in the first on a jumper by Brunson he now had 20 points. As time ran out in the first quarter Immanuel Quigley drained a three for the Knicks pulling them to within five points at 47-42 at the end of the high scoring first quarter. Mitchell led all scorers with 23 points. Brunson paced the Knicks with 21. No other player on either club was in double figures. The Cavs won the battle of the boards 8-5 also the Cavs had 12 assists to the Knicks six. Cleveland also dominated the paint scoring 18 points inside while the Knicks managed only 10. The 47-point first quarter by the Cavs was a season high. Also the 42 points by the Knicks was the most the Cavs have given up in a first quarter this season.

The game slowed down in the four minutes of the quarter. With 8:00 left on the second quarter clock the Knicks cut the lead to 56-53 when Hart was fouled by Garland, his second and he hit one of two free throws. New York then took a 57-56 lead with 6:55 left when Hart hit a short jumper. Nearly halfway through the second quarter with 6:23 left both Mitchell and Brunson who combined for 44 points in the first quarter were scoreless in the second. The Knicks then extended the lead to 59-56 on Brunson jumper and then right on cue Mitchell drained a three to tie the game 59-59 with 5:34 left. Grimes then gave the Knicks a 63-59 lead with 5:15 left when Grimes hit a long three and was fouled by Ricky Rubio. Grimes hit the free throw finishing the four point play. Brunson started to take over the game as the second quarter continued and Mitchell ended up on the bench as he drew his third foul on a questionable offensive foul call with 3:33 left in the first half. The Knicks dominated the final 5:34 of the first half outscoring Cleveland 20-13. In the final 6:23 Brunson scored 12 points for a first half game leading total of 33. Mitchell led the Cavs with 26 points in the first 24 minutes. Garland finished the first half with 18 points. The Knicks worked hard than the Cavs in the second quarter and it showed on the boards as New York outrebounded Cleveland 14-5. The Knicks also outworked Cleveland in the paint in the second quarter 16-6 to lead in the paint at the half 26-24. One final area the Knicks outdid the Cavs was bench play as New York outscored the Cavs 17-15 off the bench. Both team shot a very high percentage in the first half as the Cavs were 27-46 from the field for 59% and the Knicks shot 30-48 for a scorching 63%.

The Cavs closed the gap to 82-79 with 10:23 left on a three pointer by LeVert. The Cavs pulled to within 86-85 with 7:08 left in the third when Mitchell drove the lane for a basket. After Brunson went down and drained a jumper Mobley was brutalized by Mitchell Robinson and went to the foul line hitting one of two cutting the Knicks lead to 88-86 with 6:32 left. The Cavs continued to play the shottiest of defense and the Knicks continued to take advantage of it. Every time Cleveland scored the Knicks responded. With 4:31 left in the third the Knicks extended their lead to 97-91 on an Toppin layup. With 3:48 left in the third Toppin summed things up on the night thus far as he unguarded drove the lane and slammed the ball giving the Knicks a 101-94 lead. Among many things the Knicks were without a doubt the more physical of the two teams in the game to this point. Once again with 2:09 left in the game the NBA officials took over the game as Osman was called for an offensive foul on Brunson. Not even close to the same type of foul several games ago that was deemed “not enough contact” by Joel Embiid when he elbowed Mobley in the lane. Furthermore with :54.6 left in the third former Cav Isaiah Hartenstein was suddenly a superstar getting a call on very little contact. The Cavs however fought through the help from the NBA office and as the quarter ended had cut the lead to three points at 105-102. Brunson continued to lead all scorers with 40 points through three. Mitchell paced the Cavs with 38. Garland also had 20, Osman 14 and Mobley had 12. The Knicks continued to dominate the boards leading that battle 34-24 after three. Through three quarters defensively the Cavs looked much more like the 2022 Cleveland Browns than the 2022-23 Cavs.

The Cavs cut the lead to 107-104 with 10:05 left on a Dean Wade layup forcing the grouchy Thibodeau to take a timeout. After the timeout the Cavs once again could not defend the three and Hart took advantage giving New York a 110-104 lead with 9:45 remaining. The Knicks who apparently understood the importance of the game tonight continued to build their lead to 115-104 with 8:38 left when of all people Miles McBride, yep you read that right Miles McBride slammed home the dunk. The New York lead ballooned to 15 points at 119-104 when Barrett seeming unguarded hit a fadeaway jumper with 7:36 left on the game clock. The Cavs not only played porous to non-existent defense all-night they also were very sloppy offensively missing some key opportunities to close the gap. With 4:27 left on the game clock Brunson hit his sixth three of the game giving the Knicks 123-111 lead. LeVert hit a three with 3:48 left cutting the lead under double digits at 123-114. The Cavs finally got a stop on the very unhappy Thibodeau’s Knicks and took advantage on a dunk by Mobley on an assist from LeVert cutting the Knicks lead to 123-116 with 3:09 left in regulation. Once again down the stretch as for most of the game offensive mistakes and terrible defense reminiscent of the Stepien era teams was costly as the Cavs fell to the Knicks who clearly and undeniably played with more passion 130-116. Brunson led all scorers in the game with 48 points. Mitchell led the Cavs with 42 points in the disappointing loss to the likely playoff opponent.

The Cavs will be in action next on Sunday night at RMFH when they take on the Indiana Pacers (33-44, 14-25 road) at 8 pm.. 
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​POSTED 03/31/2023 22:11
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Cavaliers fall to Knicks 130-116.                                         Photo by Tommy Shirer