Photo Credit: USA Today Sports Images
The narrative for tonight’s showdown against the Cavaliers was the Knicks finding out where they stood against the NBA’s elite. The result was a brutal reality check as Cleveland toyed with New York before pulling away in the third quarter in a 126-94 rout at Madison Square Garden.
WEAKNESSES EXPLOITED: I’ve been saying it all season and will continue to do so. Until this team learns competent three-point defense, they’ll be exposed against elite competition. Today’s NBA is predicated on the three-point shot. Once again, Porzingis made poor decisions on double teams and close-outs with his stretch four, allowing Kevin Love to drop 16 points in the first quarter with four three-pointers. At halftime, the Cavs held a 63-48 lead largely on the 50% (8/19) shooting from downtown. For the game, they were a ridiculous 22/40.
On offense, the Knicks were passive allowing the Cavs defense to bully them and force 16 turnovers (which the Cavs converted into 17 points).
SCARED TO COMPETE: This is the second time we’ve played like trash against the defending champs. Yes, some will use the built-in excuses of Derrick Rose being out with back spasms and this being the second night of a back to back. Hogwash. The mentality of this team is markedly different when we face Cleveland.
We play scared and let them dictate the pace. On a night where Melo was clearly fatigued and didn’t have it (8 points, 4/9 in 24 minutes), no one could carry the load. Porzingis had a quiet 12 points and continued his shooting slump (5/15). Jennings had 16 points in his first start, but could only manage 3 assists, giving you a clear indicator of how badly Cleveland shut down New York’s offense.
BIG THREE RUNS RAMPANT: Cleveland’s All-Star trio combined for 59% of the team’s scoring load with 74 points. LeBron James chipped in 25 points. Love had 21 and Kyrie Irving led all scorers with 28. Tristan Thompson dominated the glass with 20 rebounds.
The only good thing about this game is that it’s over. The Knicks will lick their wounds and begin a 5-game West Coast road trip on Friday. The next opponent should be a welcome sight in the Sacramento Kings.