In maybe their best win of the year, the Knicks shut down the high-flying Cleveland Cavaliers with DEFENSE, winning 92-81, on a Sunday evening at Madison Square Garden.
It was redemption for the afternoon before, when Tim Hardaway Jr and the Dallas Mavericks went NUTS from 3 in the 3rd quarter to turn a Knick lead into a 20-point loss, and redemption for a game against Cleveland earlier in the season on October 31, when the Knicks went into the 4th quarter in Cleveland up by 9 pts, but Donovan Mitchell went NUTS to blow the Knicks out of the building.
The Knicks came out determined to wipe out the memory of the ugly loss of the day before — with tough in-your-face defense that they maintained throughout the evening. NY held a 10-point lead throughout most of the 4th quarter, although Cleveland sliced into it twice — once to 6 points, and once to 5 points with 2:10 left.
1. Knicks DEFENSE
Quentin Grimes played suffocating defense on Donovan Mitchell for 40 minutes. Mitchell Robinson was in the face of Evan Mobley all night — and then also defended the paint like an Aegis missile defense system. Julius Randle and RJ Barrett double-teamed and caused turnovers. Immanuel Quickley provided his brand of tough defense and rebounding.
Coach Tom Thibodeau went with a shorter 9-man rotation for rhythm, and the Knicks as a team played tough and like a gloved hand. That rotation included Miles McBride, who played 16 minutes of TOUGH DEFENSE against the explosive Cleveland backcourt of Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell.
Evan Mobley only had 11 points as Robinson was drapped all over him all evening.
Lock up Mitch 🔒 pic.twitter.com/rOURI64hlF
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) December 5, 2022
“Mitchell Robinson brought good activity on both backboards, altered shots, stayed away from cheap fouls and made some extra effort plays that usually decide games,” noted NBA analyst Ross Kreines on Twitter. “The Knicks will have to start utilizing his strengths on the offensive end by getting him in high picks and rolls.”
2. Lots of “Traveling” Calls
There were 37 turnovers in the game — Cleveland had 20; the Knicks 17. Most of them were due to traveling calls by the officials. The Knicks were hit with 8 traveling calls — the most called against any NBA team since 2010. The Cavs were hit with 5 traveling calls.
The NBA seems to have sent down an edict to referees this weekend to tightly call the travel, suspiciously or conincidentally after a tweet went viral last Thursday that showed Giannis Antetokounmpo traveling with the ball constantly.
The Knicks were helped down the stretch by some key traveling calls that went against Cleveland’s Kevin Love and Donovan Mitchell.
3. Barrett Horrible 1st Half; Great 3rd Quarter
The Knicks had an 18-point lead in the 2nd quarter before Cleveland chipped away and made it a 46-43 game at the half. The Knicks would have maintained the big lead had RJ Barrett not stunk up the joint. He was forcing drives, missing shots, and turning the ball over (on travel calls). At one point he took out his frustration with a strong drive for a dunk, but at the half was only 1-8 from the floor (0-4 from 3) for 3 points, and had 5 turnovers — although his plus/minus was a not-so-bad -4.
In the 3rd quarter it was a different story — he was extremely efficient — 4 for 5 from the floor; making his drives and hitting his 3’s. Barrett finished 5-13 (2-7 from 3, 3-4 in free throws), for 15 points, 8 rebounds, and a +7.
4. TGFQ = Thank God for Quickley
While Barrett was struggling in the 1st half, Immanuel Quickley was playing a brilliant game — great defense and great offense. In the 1st half he had 10 pts on 5 for 6 shooting, good defense and a +17. Quick finished with 12 pts on 6 for 8 shooting in 24 minutes; a +13.
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) December 4, 2022
5. Knicks Shorter Rotation
Damned if you do; damned if you don’t for coach Tom Thibodeau. After Saturday’s matinee debacle where Knick fans on twitter had Tom Thibodeau’s name trending — demanding his firing for not having the team adjust well during the horrid 3rd quarter when Dallas scored 41 points — Thibs shortened the rotation for this game, benching Cam Reddish and Derrick Rose.
Reddish looked Horrible in the 3rd quarter on Saturday against Dallas, and Thibs apparently noticed.
Thibs was asked in the postgame if Cam was benched due to his terrible defensive energy the game before against Dallas. Thibs said he doesn’t like to single out players, but said he went to shorter rotation for more rhythm. He said that’s the way it is now; not necessarily how it will be in future.
Afterwards, many Knick fans on Twitter took Thibs to task for not playing Cam Reddish.
Straight out of the “Damned if you do… damned if you don’t” department, or the “Can’t Please Everyone Gotta Please Yourself” song by Ricky Nelson which ironically is named “Garden Party” and starts out with the lyrics “I went to a Garden Party…”
6. Brunson and Randle Closed It
As the Cavs got to within 5 with 2 minutes left, Jalen Brunson closed it out for the Knicks with big plays on the offensive end.
Jalen Brunson is CLUTCH! pic.twitter.com/CchtisQ6Yy
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) December 5, 2022
Brunson also fed Julius Randle for a huge bucket inside.
The dish from Brunson to Randle 🔥 pic.twitter.com/onKNFQ0YoX
— KNICKS ON MSG (@KnicksMSGN) December 5, 2022
7. Hartenstein Very Good
Part of the Knicks shorter rotation was Isaiah Hartenstein — who played good ball on both ends of the court. He had 10 points and 9 rebounds in 14 minutes. His ability to hit his free throws is a bonus.