History was made in Cleveland with a 17th straight loss, the longest in 73 seasons of Knicks basketball.
This team will now be forever remembered with a line in the media guide, a season to forget will not go forgotten.
“Next game,” David Fizdale said. “Just get to the next game.”
The Knicks (10-46) maintained their hold on the worst record in the NBA by giving up 63 points in the first half to a Cavaliers team that averages just 102.3 per game, which is the second-lowest in the league and has failed to reach 100 points in three of the previous four games. The players had talked before the game about the desire to win and end a losing streak that has extended over a month. Rookie Kevin Knox even chastised fans for finding the positives in losing because of the lottery positioning. There was a sense that the Knicks would enter this game with great determination.
But their effort in the first half didn’t match their words as they allowed 10 offensive rebounds in the first half, which led to extra possessions for the Cavs, and then missed 7 of the 9 threes they attempted. So with the energy once again low at the start, this was yet another game where Fizdale threw all his players in a cup and kept tossing them out until it came up Yahtzee. That happened in the second half, when he dusted off the zone defense from December and tried a two-big alignment with Luke Kornet and Mitchell Robinson. He also then rode the hot hand of Kadeem Allen, who plays an old school point guard game with a fullback mentality, to make it an entertaining finish.
It led to several chances to win or at least tie the game.
The team had trailed from the opening tip and, at one point, by as many as 17. Kornet drilled a three with 52.1 seconds left to bring the Knicks to within 105-104. The Knicks then got a defensive stop and Kornet snatched the rebound with 34.6 seconds left. Up the court they went and Allen whipped a pass back to Kornet in almost the same exact spot he just hit the previous three. Kornet caught it, took a dribble to avoid a defender and had time to set his feet and fire when ready.
The shot missed left with 21.8 seconds left.
The Knicks fouled rookie Collin Sexton to stop the clock and Sexton made both to put the Cavs up three, 107-104, with 17.3 seconds left. Out of a timeout, the Knicks ran their play which saw Dennis Smith Jr. drive, draw defenders and loop a pass over the top to the weak-side corner, where newly-signed sharpshooter John Jenkins waited. But Jenkins shot was long. Smith grabbed the rebound and moonwalked to the opposite corner for one last heave, but that fell short.
“We got the look we wanted,” Fizdale said, “it just didn’t go down.”
The Knicks finished 7 for 26 from three in the game, while the Cavs were 14 for 44. Overall, the shooting percentage wasn’t bad (45.7%), but the issues from three-point range (Knox was 1 for 7) and also a 13-for-20 effort from the foul line cost the team precious points. That’s simply a talent issue.
But giving up 17 offensive rebounds, which helped lead to 19 second-chance points is a glaring attention to detail and determination that has to be maddening to a coaching staff that has to carry this losing streak not just in the franchise records, but on their permanent record.
– Kadeem Allen followed up his career-best effort against the Raptors on Saturday with an even better performance against Cleveland. The second-year guard had 25 points and 6 assists in 32:13. He shot 10 for 16 from the field and at a time where there is so much emphasis on the three-point shot, Allen attempted just two from downtown (he made one). He had just one turnover, but while his game was solid, there is always room for improvement. In the play to Kornet, which resulted in the missed three, Allen might have simply pulled up and hit the 10 footer that was available as he dribbled off a screen. It was a shot he was getting, and hitting, throughout the second half. It would have given the Knicks a one-point lead. But he seemed to predetermine the pass to Kornet and, to be fair, it resulted in a clean look from a 43% shooter from three.
– Dennis Smith Jr. had another low-impact performance with 10 points and 4 assists in 31:20. Smith took just 12 shots, 7 in the second half, and looked like he struggled to get his motor going. It wasn’t a lack of competitiveness, as Smith recorded two blocks on effort plays and also had three steals. But he seemed to get frustrated early by a defense that was clearly designed to stop him.
– Kevin Knox had 13 points but was 5 for 16 from the field, including 1 for 7 from three and several that weren’t even close. Shooting has been a major issue as Knox has now gone 13 straight games without shooting at least 45% from the field. Over that stretch, he’s shooting 32.4% from the field and 28.4% from three while taking 13.8 shots per game (and 5.7 per game from downtown). While three-point shooting is something many rookies struggle with, the more concerning issue is his issues with finishing inside the arc. For the season, Knox is shooting 38.6% from two-point range and just 35.6% from 3 to 10 feet. That 38.6% from two represents the 10th lowest production for a rookie (with at least 300 two-point FGAs) since the three-point line was introduced to the NBA in 1979-80. (It’s worth noting that also on that list are Emmanuel Mudiay — 4th lowest at 37.9% — and Frank Ntilikina — 8th lowest at 38.5%). There is reason to think, however, that Knox can correct this by simply improving his lower body strength and endurance during the offseason. Knox has a soft touch and can get to the rim, but he struggles to finish against a physical defense.
– Mitchell Robinson continues to trend up. He had 10 points, 8 rebounds, two blocks and a steal in 23:41 and was a +3. His defensive rating has dipped to 108, which is respectable when you consider the team’s overall DRtg (113.7) is 27th in the league. But beyond a defensive presence, he’s become an electrifying force on the offensive end with his finishes at the rim. He had four more dunks in this game, which raised his season total to 61. That’s the second-most among rookies, well behind the leader, Suns center DeAndre Ayton (103), but in fewer games and minutes. The high-flying, rim-running theatrics led @ via Twitter to label him Mitchell LOBinson. How do we feel about that nickname?
[Coverage Of Knicks-76ers Begins Wednesday At 7 On MSG & MSG GO]