They do a lot of switching… a lot of stuff where you can get caught in laziness and hanging back. So we’re just moving and cutting and guys are cutting hard. And we got Luke Walton out there so it makes it easy. – Cavs guard C.J. Miles on the Knicks’s first half defense
As you can see from the above quote, the Cavs were feeling themselves in the first half against the Knicks. They had reason to be cocky on 68% shooting and at one point in the second holding a 22 point lead (52-30). The Knicks couldn’t make basic defensive rotations and Luke Walton was dishing dimes like a prime John Stockton. And to add to the misery, Carmelo Anthony had a Benny Hill moment in tripping over his own feet and badly hurting his right knee to knock him out the rest of the game.
But halfway through the second, the Knicks began showing signs of life and very gradually it seemed to dawn on them they were playing the Cavaliers. Without Melo, Coach Woodson was forced to do what should become a regular end-game lineup in playing both Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler.
MEET THE LATEST BENCH PLAYER TO TORCH NY: Center Marreese Speights got the start today and promptly began going to town with jumper after jumper. He hit his first 10 shots and had 15 points after the first. Whether it was Chandler or Stat, he was the Cavs’s dominate scorer in the first half. However, reality (and the Knicks defense) made him a non-factor in the second half where he only had 2 points.
MELO’S INJURY TRIGGERS RUN: The Knicks looked completely demoralized down 22 and the Melo injury appeared to signal this would be a blowout evening. The Knicks instead rallied with a 17-4 run to close the quarter and take a 49-61 deficit into halftime. In the third, the Knicks stormed out with a 10-0 run to pull within 59-61 behind tough interior defense that triggered jump balls, and solid shooting from Jason Kidd and JR Smith. Still, the Knicks couldn’t quite get over the hump despite holding the Cavs to just 1 point six minutes into the quarter and outscoring them 21-13 overall. Going into the fourth, they were still down 70-74.
LIVE BY THE THREE: The Knicks drilled seven treys in the fourth and everyone got in on the party. Novak rebounded from the horrid Sunday game against the Heat and had three treys in the quarter. Kidd nailed two crucial ones, and Raymond Felton added one of his own late. Kidd’s last trey in the final minutes put the Knicks up 97-91, which proved to be just enough breathing room down the stretch.
THE STAT N TYSON SHOW: For the first time in what seemed like ages, Woodson played our two elite bigs in the fourth to devastating effect. Guards Pablo Prigioni and Felton had Stat feasting on pick n rolls for easy dunks and Chandler was all over the boards. The game-changing plays in the last minute came down to this duo. With a slim 97-95 lead, Stat attacked the rim, got blocked and went back up strong to push the lead to 99-95. Later, a missed Stat jumper was tipped out by Chandler to Jason Kidd, leading to a free throw to push the lead to 100-97. And finally, Irving’s three-point attempt to tie was promptly blocked by Chandler to ice the game.
LOSING STREAK ENDS: For some inexplicable reason, the Cavs have been a huge problem for the Knicks even after the LeBron era. Before tonight, the last time the Knicks had won in Cleveland went back to November 2006. To put that in perspective, current Cavs all-star Kyrie Irving for 14 years old at the time.
At this time, we don’t know how much time Melo will miss. Even though the Knicks are claiming it isn’t serious, I don’t have much faith in an early prognosis from the Knicks medical staff considering what we’ve seen happen this year with Rasheed Wallace, Stoudemire and Camby.
Next up is the Pistons, so the Knicks should be able to handle that squad again without Melo.