Coming off of a promising preseason performance, the Knicks looked to go above .500 basketball in the regular season last night against the defending Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland Cavaliers. It was only last season that the disastrous Knicks of old spoiled LeBron James’ homecoming.
While the seasons of each team took very different turns –– the Knicks finishing with the worst record in the East with a bleak record of 17-65, only one game better than an equally abysmal Minnesota Timberwolves and the Cavaliers chalking up a runner-up spot in the NBA finals –– the matchup last night showed a new look squad that put up an admirable fight.
The Knicks have an almost entirely new starting five surrounding Carmelo Anthony with Robin Lopez at center, Aaron Afflalo at shooting guard and the controversial number-four pick Kristaps Porzingis at power forward.
Although Afflalo has been sidelined with a strained left hamstring, the production that Porzingis and Anthony have poured in over the early games of the season have been impressive. Porzingis posted 13 points, topped only by Anthony who scored 17 points and added 10 rebounds to his stat line.
The Knickerbockers showed shades of improvement, coming out hot in the first quarter and outscoring the Cavs 32-18. However, similar to last season, the Knicks were unable to hang on down the stretch and unraveled, being outscored 26-17 in the final quarter.
James showed no difficulty scoring against the Knicks, scoring a game-high 23 points on the night. The only thing that caused him frustration was the Cavs’ alternate sleeved jerseys, in which the King took the liberty of ripping after a missed three point attempt in the second quarter.
The Knicks were also beleaguered by the unexpected play of Mo Williams, who was playing in place of superstar Kyrie Irving, who has yet to return from the surgery he underwent on his left kneecap.
The rebounding prowess of Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson proved to be too much, each forward posting 12 and 13 rebounds respectively. The Cavs push their winning streak to four, not losing since their opener against the Chicago Bulls.
Head coach Derek Fisher will have to right the ship before the Knicks slip even further in the standings and find themselves in a similar situation as last year. Considering the Cavaliers are once again a favorite to win the title with a lineup that is stacked from top to bottom, the Knicks fared well enough to only suffer a deficit of 10 points in the loss.
Last season, the Knicks were bested by the Cavs in their season series, only winning one of the three contests.
The 2-3 Knicks will now look to a home game against a similarly-talented Milwaukee Bucks squad on Friday night at the Garden.