Monday’s Cavaliers vs. Knicks matchup had a surprising amount of hype around it. The Knicks entered the game having won 7 of their last 9 games including a 114-95 beatdown of the Cavs just a couple of weeks ago in Cleveland. The Cavs entered the game with their typical early-season nonsense drama hanging over them: no talent around Lebron James, nobody is playing inspired defense, will Lebron leave the team in the offeseason. It has gotten bad enough that coach Tyronn Lue might just be on the verge of having to tell his team to do stuff for once.
To add to the dramatics, prior to the game, Saltbron felt the need to comment on Frank Ntilikina, saying that the Knicks should have picked Dennis Smith, Jr over our newly beloved point guard from France. While the Knicks fans and organization are honored that LeBron basically admitted to the public that he’d like to be our new GM, we still have $24 million that we have to payout to Phil Jackson. Maybe once that’s over we can give your resume a look see, Bron Bron.
James knew his comments would stir up a Knicks crowd that has historically been hostile towards him. Unfazed by the Knicks fans’ booing and taunting, The King has been historically great when he steps into The World’s Most Famous Arena, averaging 28.5 points per game for his career – good for 3rd all-time at MSG (behind only MJ and Kobe).
It wasn’t long before we saw that hostility hit the court. At the tail end of the 1st quarter, we saw the French Prince push LeBron out of his way after James cockily stood over the 19 year-old who was trying to pick up the ball after a Cavs score. Enes Kanter quickly jumped in and told LeBron he wasn’t having that shit in his house. Good on Frank lé Tank for not backing down from LeBron and good on Kanter for stepping in for the young rook.
Kanter also responded after the game saying “I don’t care who you are or what you call yourself.. King, Queen, Princess. Whatever you are. We’re going to fight. Nobody out there is going to punk us.” I fucking love this mentality. This is exactly the type of no nonsense attitude that this young Knicks team needs and it means all that much more when your 6’11, 265-pound Center is the one setting that tone. Let me be the first to anoint Enes Kanter as an official New York Knick.
On to the actual gameplay, The Knicks’ defense turned it on in the 2nd Quarter – holding the Cavs to 5 of 24 shooting (20.8%). Led by 4 steals from Frank Ntilikina and great defensive pressure from guys like Courtney Lee and Kyle O’Quinn, the Knicks held the Cavs to just 13 points in the 2nd and head into the half with a 51-38 lead. In the third quarter, the Knicks continued piling on to what seemed to be an inevitable post-game shaming of LeBron on our home court, building up a 23-point lead on the Cavs…and that’s when Kyle Korver happened.
The Cavs pretty much rode the hot hand of Korver to victory, hitting 5 triples in the 4th quarter and sealing the game with two clutch free throws in the final moments. To nobody’s surprise, LeBron did what he does best, hides in the background and feeds dimes to 36-year old journeymen sharpshooters in crunch time.
On the real though, LeBron played absolutely lockdown defense on Kristaps Porzingis any time he faced him 1v1, which ultimately was the difference in the game down the stretch. When a guy like Korver heats up, all you can do is respond with offense and the Knicks could not. Three possessions in a row in the final few minutes, Kristaps tried dropping a fadeaway jumper in LeBron’s face and the 5x All-Defensive First Teamer had The Unicorn’s number each time. Not to mention LeBron dropped 8 dimes in the 4th quarter and a hit dagger 3-pointer over Porzingis to lead his team to a 104-101 victory over the Knicks.
This one goes down as the first truly tough L of the season. It hurts any time you see your team squander a 23-point lead, but it stings even worse when that comeback is at the hands of a gum-flapping Lebron James. On the bright side, Frank lé Tank showed he has some real balls standing up to LeBron. I love this kid’s fearlessness and can’t wait to see his offensive game develop. Win or lose, it’s really just great to watch an exciting young Knicks team that brings it every night.
New York Nick