Andre Drummond dominated the paint and Damyean Dotson tormented his former teammates down the stretch as the Cleveland Cavaliers edged New York 106-103 Friday night at Rocket Mortgage Arena. The loss was the fifth straight for the Knicks (5-8).
The scene appeared to be perfectly set for New York to snap out of their recent doldrums. The Cavaliers came into the game on their own three-game losing streak. The Knicks had defeated them on the road just a couple of weeks ago. Cleveland was without both members of their starting backcourt, Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, along with forward Kevin Love. As a matter of fact, the Cavaliers didn’t have a true point guard even dressed for the game. Newly acquired Taurean Prince and Jarrett Allen were also not available yet. How could the Knicks possibly lose?
Sadly for New York, Drummond and ex-Knick Dotson had their own agenda. Drummond was unstoppable, scoring at will inside. The all-star center scored 33 points and hauled down 23 rebounds. He is a free agent at the end of the season and may soon be on the trading block after the acquisition of Allen from the Nets. Drummond seemed to use the game as a personal audition. Meanwhile, Dotson scored seven points, including a clutch three-pointer and a huge steal to help Cleveland put away the Knicks.
Miscues in the closing minute led to the Knicks demise.
“In terms of the turnovers, they were costly,’’ Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “It’s late, it’s the fourth quarter of a game, and we have to understand that part of a game is a lot different. The intensity is different, the way it’s officiated is different, so I think a big part of learning is trial and error. So hopefully we can learn from it.’’
The Cavaliers led 28-25 after a quarter, but the Knicks rallied to take a brief 43-39 advantage in the second after a three-pointer from Immanuel Quickley and a Quickley alley-oop lob to Mitchell Robinson for a slam. Cleveland recovered however for a 57-55 halftime lead.
Cleveland appeared to be on the verge of putting the game out of reach with a 10-0 run in the third that gave them a 80-68 edge, but the Knicks responded with a 16-0 spurt to lead 84-80 early in the fourth.
The Cavs led 98-95 with 1:52 to play when RJ Barrett connected on a fade away 20-footer to pull New York within one. Barrett though killed the momentum that he had created with a pair of devastating turnovers in the final 1:19, one that resulted in a clear path foul on Dotson who made both free throws. The other came when he was stripped by Drummond with 20 second left with the Knicks trailing by just four.
“It’s a tough one especially because we really played hard,’’ said Barrett. “It’s over now. We have to learn from those little mistakes, move on and try to get a win. I think we’re trying. We’re putting in the work, fighting as much as we can. I think we’ll be all right.’’
Quickley, the 25th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, provided a huge spark coming off the bench. He poured in 12 points in 11 minutes with two assists in the first half. Quickley shot 5-for-8 from the field, making two three-pointers in the first 24 minutes, rounding out the contest with 23 points, five rebounds and four assists.
Julius Randle had another outstanding game for the Knicks with 28 points, six assists and six boards. Even with his issues, Barrett contributed 20 points.
Backup center Nerlens Noel performed well off the bench with six blocked shots.
The Knicks will look to return to the win column on Sunday when they travel to Boston to battle the Celtics for the frst time this season. The game is an early 1 p.m. start.
(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)