The Cavaliers should have known they were going to be in for a difficult night when they wrapped up the first quarter setting a franchise record in points and led by just five.
Both the Cavs and Knicks got off to a scorching start on Friday night, but only one was still hot when the fourth quarter rolled around – as New York came to town and outmuscled the Wine and Gold in a potential Playoff preview – running away with the 130-116 decision at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
In what will likely be an Eastern Conference First Round matchup, both teams – who actually hang their hat on the defensive end – came out on fire. Donovan Mitchell would proceed to score 23 of Cleveland’s 47 first-quarter points, most ever by a Cavalier team in a quarter, while New York’s Jalen Brunson netted 21 of the Knicks 42 points.
Things remained tight from there – with neither team leading by more than eight points through the first three quarters. But the Knicks kept up their prolific pace late while the Wine and Gold went cold over the final quarter – scoring just 14 points in the fourth as New York pulled away to take the season series and keep Cleveland from locking up the 4th-seed on Friday night.
When the smoke cleared on the duel between Mitchell and Brunson, it was the first-year Knick besting the first-year Cavalier. Brunson would go on to score a career-high 48 points on the night – going 18-for-32 from the floor, including 7-of-12 from long-range and 5-of-8 from the line, adding a team-high nine assists and four boards in the win.
Mitchell finished with 42 points, going 16-for-23 from the floor, including 6-of-9 from beyond the arc and 4-of-5 from the stripe, adding four boards, five assists and a block on the night.
Darius Garland followed up with 20 points on 8-of-19 shooting, including 2-of-4 from deep, leading Cleveland with nine assists to go with three boards.
With Isaac Okoro and Jarrett Allen both missing their second straight game, the Cavaliers kept Caris LeVert in the starting lineup and moved Evan Mobley back to the 5.
LeVert notched double-figure scoring for the ninth time in his last 10 games – finishing with 15 points 5-of-12 shooting, including 4-of-7 from long-distance, adding seven assists, four boards and a steal. Mobley chipped in with 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting, grabbing seven boards to go with five assists and a team-high three blocks.
Cedi Osman was good again on Friday night – finishing with 14 points on 4-of-9 shooting, including 4-of-8 from long-range, adding a pair of boards and a block in 20 minutes of work off the bench.
Overall, seven Knicks – including Brunson – notched double-figures, including Mitchell Robinson, who doubled-up with 10 points and a game-high 14 rebounds, grabbing nine of those boards off the offensive glass.
FEAT. HIGHLIGHT: Stevens' hustle results in block
Featured Highlight: Stevens' hustle play results in block
When Dean Wade scored on a layup less than two minutes into the fourth quarter of what had already been a tight game, the Cavaliers were within three at 107-104. But things spiraled quickly from there.
Josh Hart drilled a triple on New York’s next possession, followed by back-to-back baskets by Immanuel Quickley. R.J. Barrett would score the Knicks next two buckets to complete a quick 12-0 burst that give New York the biggest lead of the night.
The Cavaliers would get to within seven with just over three minutes to play on Evan Mobley’s dunk, but Jalen Brunson – who else? – answered with a bucket on the next possession as the Knicks closed the contest on a 7-0 run.
BY THE NUMBERS
11 … games this season that Donovan Mitchell has now topped the 40-point plateau, including each of the last two, setting a Cavaliers single-season record for doing so. With his 11 games of 40-plus just this season, he ties Kyrie Irving for most such outings as a Cavalier, overall.
Earlier this week, Mitchell became the fastest player in NBA history to record 10,000 points and 1,000 three-point field goal makes – achieving that mark in 410 career contests.
Darius Garland, on Friday night’s loss to the Knicks …
“We didn’t play at the level that they did. We didn’t match their intensity. Couldn’t get stops when we needed to. That’s what it was.”
CALLS OF THE GAME
Enjoy the best broadcast calls of the night from Cavaliers Radio Network's Tim Alcorn and Rafa Hernandez-Brito from Power 98.1.
After falling to the Knicks on Friday night, the Cavaliers have just four games remaining in the regular season – two more at home two more on the road.
On Sunday night, the Cavs welcome Bennedict Mathurin and the Pacers to town for the final time before embarking on their final trip of the campaign – a two-game set in Orlando, facing the Magic on Tuesday night and again on Thursday before returning home to close out the year with an Easter Sunday matchup with the Hornets at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.