Knicks Offensive Woes Continue in Loss to Rival Cavaliers

Knicks vs Cavaliers at Madison Square Garden. Photo taken by Bret Botfeld


Following four straight losses against New York, the Cavaliers ended that dreadful streak with a 95-89 victory at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night. The Knicks record dropped to two wins and three losses overall while Cleveland improved, matching New York’s record five games into the season.

Entering the night, both teams were short-handed, missing key players. The Knicks were without R.J. Barrett, their leading scorer at 21 points per game, while Cleveland was missing All-Star Darius Garland and the team’s leading rebounder, Jarrett Allen.

Ahead of the much-anticipated matchup, Cavaliers guard and Native New Yorker Donovan Mitchell had struggled in four winless games at MSG last season, the arena he enjoys playing at most. He averaged 20 points per game and shot 37 percent from the field, well below his average.

Wednesday evening was different. Mitchell, a player the Knicks had targeted for a potential trade in the 2022 off-season, put on a show at the world’s most famous arena, scoring 30 points to go along with six rebounds and four assists.

He set the tone early, scoring the Cavaliers’ first 13 points.

New York led 50-49 at halftime courtesy of 16 points from Jalen Brunson and 14 points from Donte DiVincenzo, who provided a spark off the bench. Mitchell accounted for 23 points, nearly half of the Cavaliers’ total tally.

Cleveland came out red hot to start the third quarter with a 13-5 run and never surrendered the lead.

The Knicks scored just 13 points and trailed the Cavaliers 71-63 entering the fourth.

New York clawed their way back into the game in large part because Mitchell was zero for ten with three turnovers in the second half. The crowd was frantically chanting “Brunson’s better” as Mitchell continued misfiring.

The Knicks were down two with less than three minutes left in the game, but Mitchell came alive on Broadway for the second act and responded with five straight points. “That’s who number 45 is, he’s a guy who can create at the end of games, but he’s got the courage to take big shots and make big shots. If you’re in a game or you have a lead, when you have 45 on your team you have a chance to win it,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said during his post-game press conference.

“We didn’t make shots tonight,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said to the media. “But if we defend, rebound, and keep our turnovers down, we’ll be in position to win.” New York shot a season low 35 percent from the field and turned the ball over 13 times.

The Knicks two-time All-NBA star forward Julius Randle has struggled this season following ankle surgery in the summer. His poor play continued in the game against Cleveland, where he scored six points, missing 12 of his 15 shot attempts. “I don’t doubt Julius at all, look at what he’s done. He’s probably one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around, I’m sure he’ll bounce back,” teammate Immanuel Quickley said after the game.

All wasn’t lost for New York. To go along with DiVincenzo’s breakout game, Quickley added 18 points off the bench. Quickley was runner-up for the sixth man of the year award last season and has followed it up with a strong start this year.

In his first game back from injury, Caris LeVert scored 19 points in Cleveland’s victory, 12 came in the second half while Mitchell was missing the mark. Mobley wrecked havoc along with LeVert adding 14 points, 11 were scored in the second half. Both players held down the fort until Mitchell shut the door on New York, sending Knicks fans home cold and cranky on a chilly night in the Big Apple.

“This is an embarrassing loss to an undermanned Cavs team,” Knicks fan Richard Simon said outside the arena.

New York will look to bounce back and earn their first win at home this season, Friday night, in an Eastern-Conference clash against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.