CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Cleveland Cavaliers have said it differently a few times this season: They want to make the game as ugly as possible. This is their preferred approach, their best chance of staying competitive. That’s how the New York Knicks like to play.
On Friday night, in a mostly defensive slop-fest, the Knicks played the ugly game better, beating Cleveland for the second time that season, 102-81.
The Knicks also won the season streak that could loom as both teams aim for a playoff push.
What else was expected of a pair of top 10 defenses?
The Knicks, who finished sixth in the defensive standings into the night, consistently suffocated Cleveland. New York clogged the paint, stagnating the offensive, forcing the Cavs away from the share-the-ball approach. Bad distance. Not enough ball movement. Missed dunks. Urgent layups. Sweaters that kept coming off the rim.
The Cavs hit a season low in points, shooting 34.9% from the field and 32% from the 3-point range. It is the second time the Cavs have been held below the 90-point mark against New York this season.
“The way their defenses are built is that they don’t trust enough NBA teams to get the pass on the weak side of the floor. They leave a man in the middle of the floor and don’t think enough teams can do it and obviously it works, ”said Cavs head coach JB Bickerstaff after the loss. “But we have to pass the basketball on to the open man much better. It’s a simple thing. It’s an easy customization. It is easy for us to fix the problem. “
After a lethargic first half with only 33 points scored and a 14 point hole dug, the Cavs came out of the locker room with more zip. They made a run at the beginning of the third quarter and moved within two properties on several occasions. But all of that work was undone with a sloppy game near the time the Knicks ended with a 16-3 boost.
At the end of that horrific four and a half minutes, the Cavs stared at their biggest deficit – until New York extended its lead even further in the fourth quarter.
Cleveland’s top scorer, Collin Sexton, has been kept below the 20-point mark for the third time in the last four games – three of which have ended in defeat. Sexton finished 6-of-18 with 17 points.
“Tonight they were the tougher team,” said Sexton.
Andre Drummond, who had one of his best nights as a Cavaliers in the last meeting against New York, scored just four points with 15 rebounds and hit a series of 21 games in double digits. Darius Garland scored a season high of 24 points in the defeat.
“It wasn’t even our pace. It was our energy and our will to fight, ”Garland said. “I mean, we came out in the first with all the struggle and energy that we had. And then we just died. They ran and we just couldn’t fight back. “
New York rookie Immanuel Quickley and sophomore security guard RJ Barrett, two key pieces of the future of the franchise, were groundbreaking. Quickley had 25 points while Barrett added 24.
At various times this season, both organizations have shown rebuilding on the right track. They fought for the playoff position, with the Cavs coming into the game in sixth place before falling. Now the Knicks hold the all-important tiebreaker. Something to remember in late April or early May.
Shake off the rust
Larry Nance Jr. returned after an absence of two games with a sprained right wrist. Nance, still in pain, didn’t feel the same way. Nance scored two points in 29 minutes in a 9-1 shooting.
The Cavs will wrap up a short road trip with two weekend games against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday night. Tipoff is set to 8 p.m.
New Cavs Face Masks For Sale: Here, you can purchase Cleveland Cavaliers-themed face covers for coronavirus protection, including a single mask ($ 14.99) and a 3-pack ($ 24.99). All NBA proceeds were donated to charity.
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