It got ugly and ugly fast for the Cleveland Cavaliers against the New York Knicks on Thursday night. Playing on TNT and in Madison Square Garden, the game served as a perfect chance for the Cavaliers to escape all of the drama surrounding them. Or so it seemed.
In the first quarter, the Cavaliers gave up 38 points to the Knicks and New York seemingly got every shot it wanted. Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith carried got hot early and stayed hot for the entire quarter. On the flip side, Cleveland look disjointed, as Kyrie Irving and company struggled get open looks as the quarter went on and they finished the first quarter with 21 points. And by the half, the Knicks were up by 24 and, based on their body language, Cleveland had given up on any hope of a comeback.
Considering the reports earlier in the day that Irving wants out of Cleveland, the best thing for the Cavaliers would have been to get a win on the road against a team who they are competing with for a spot in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference – a team that they had defeated by 25 points earlier in the season nonetheless. But their slow start – something that they’ve done time and time again – put them in a hole they couldn’t get out of and resulted in a 117-86 drubbing in the Big Apple.
In all reality, the outcome of this game was decided in the first half. Sure, the Cavaliers were able to outscore the Knicks 29-21 in the third quarter but they were subsequently outscored by 15 in the final period and it wasn’t even Anthony or Smith sinking in the final daggers. It was none other than rookie two-guard Tim Hardaway Jr., who finished 29 points off the bench.
And when you dive into the box score, it becomes even clearer that the Knicks were a far better team than the Cavaliers tonight. For the game, the Knicks shot 56.6 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from deep. New York also had seven players who shot at least fifty percent on a minimum of four shot attempts. In comparison, Cleveland shot 35.6 percent from the field and 34.8 percent from deep. Only two Cavaliers (C.J. Miles, who was 3-4, and Dion Waiters who was 8-15 off the bench) shot above fifty percent from the field.
Again, this was another chance for the Cavaliers to start righting the ship and make a push towards the playoffs. But if tonight is any indicator, this team is headed to the lottery once again.
PG Kyrie Irving – 39 minutes, 24 points, 10-25 shooting, 1-5 from three, three assists, six rebounds
Not exactly a great Kyrie performance. He was the inefficient, high volume, high usage Irving that is frustrating to watch. Still, in the horrendous first half, Irving created highlights by making Knicks defenders miss. Still, his performance left a lot to the imagination tonight. At least his post game comments were reassuring.
SG C.J. Miles – 13 minutes, nine points, 3-4 shooting
Miles shot well in a small sample size, but he was nonexistent tonight. When the Cavaliers found themselves down big, Miles would have been the type of player to help the Cavaliers make a comeback. But he wash nowhere to be found – again.
SF Luol Deng – 32 minutes, 3-9 shooting, 13 points, 11 rebounds
Deng was okay tonight and he started off well, attacking the rim and trying to set up open teammates. He also struggled to defend Carmelo Anthony early on, but Melo did cool off after his scorching start. However, it’s clear – if it wasn’t from the start – that he can’t solve all of the Cavaliers issues by himself. He helps, but he’s not capable of doing everything by himself and shouldn’t be expected to.
PF Tristan Thompson – 22 minutes, two points, 1-5 shooting, two rebounds
This was Tristan Thompson’s most memorable play tonight. He was a non-factor and this was probably one of his worst games this season. At one point, he was benched for Anthony Bennett. That is not a typo.
C Tyler Zeller – 14 minutes, two points on 1-3 shooting, one rebounds
Zeller wasn’t playing particularly well against Tyson Chandler in the middle, but only 13 minutes for Zeller? This baffles me. He deserved some more run, no question – even if he did play poorly. After all, Anthony Bennett did and he played 23 minutes.
Dion Waiters – 21 points, 8-15 from the field, 2-4 from three
Waiters, when the Cavaliers found themselves way down early, played hard and was the only Cavalier to do. When everyone else looked disjointed and played poorly, Waiters kept attacking every time he touched the ball in his hands. In a season full of Cavaliers blowout losses, Waiters has time and time again kept fighting until the final buzzer. He has his flaws, but I can get behind a player like Waiters who just can’t stop and won’t stop.
The Cavs looked out of sync from the start and Mike Brown didn’t exactly help his team keep their head straight. The Knicks came out blazing in the first – scoring 38 points on 12-20 shooting. Cleveland’s defense was disjointed and their defensive assignments didn’t help the matter. The Knicks did whatever they wanted and Brown didn’t do anything to stop the bleeding. There were no timeouts to try and slow down the Knicks momentum, no lineup switching to try and match the Knicks guard heavy lineups better – nothing.
Also, Brown’s lineup management continues to baffle me. For instance, Tyler Zeller played 13 minutes tonight, while Henry Sims played 22. There isn’t any sound reasoning for this and it’s the kind of mismanagement that, if repeated, can hurt the development of your young prospects. All in all, Brown didn’t exactly coach a good basketball game tonight.