CAVALIERS 98 KNICKS 90 | QUICKEN LOANS ARENA
How it happened:
In a season filled with adjustments, the Knicks will now look to install Amar’e Stoudemire back in the lineup just one day after the team clinched a spot in the postsesason. On Friday night in Cleveland, Stoudemire returned after missing the last 13 games with a bulging disk in his back. The big man was visibly trying to regain his basketball rhythm and New York worked to incorporate him into the offense.
Stoudemire was aggressive early and reached the charity stripe four times in the first 3 minutes of the opening period. Interim head coach started Stoudemire at the power forward spot where he scored one point in the first quarter and Carmelo Anthony posted six but the Knicks fell into a 25-20 hole.
Anthony shifted back to his natural small forward position and Iman Shumpert moved to shooting guard, which placed Landry Fields with the second unit. Mike Bibby earned the starting nod at point guard as Baron Davis missed his second straight game due to a stomach illness.
The offensive flow did not return for the Knicks in the second half while the Cavaliers, led by rookie Kryie Irving, continued to exude high energy. Irving scored 15 second half points and finished with a team-high 21 in the Cleveland win.
The Cavaliers held New York to just 34 first half points and 31 percent shooting from the floor despite 11 points from Anthony in 19 minutes.
Stoudemire showed increased energy in the final stanza during a spirited 13-5 Knicks run. Running with the bench crew, Stoudemire hit a perimeter jumper, connected on a layup, and his free throws knocked the Cavaliers lead down to 90-82 with 2:33 on the game clock.
J.R. Smith committed a foul on Manny Harris at the 3-point line and he hit 2-of-3 to push the lead back to 10 and out of sight for the road squad. Steve Novak finished with15 points off the bench, Stoudemire registered 15, and Anthony tallied 12 after not playing in the fourth quarter. New York dropped to 33-30 on the season and Cleveland improved 21-41.
Novak scored all 15 of his points from downtown and shot 5-of-12 from the field. In 24 minutes of action, the sharpshooter provided some life down the stretch when the Knicks offense looked stagnant.
A key statistic tonight was the disparity in the rebounding department. Cleveland outrebounded New York 52-32 and the Knicks failed to have a player reach double figures in that specific category. In fact, point guard Toney Douglas was the team’s top rebounder with nine in the loss.
State of the Playoffs:
The Knicks maintained their spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race at the No. 7 spot. Philadelphia now trails by a half game and New York has lost its opportunity to chase Orlando, sitting 3.5 games behind the Magic with three games remaining on the schedule. If the playoffs started today, the Knicks would face the Miami Heat in the first round.
The Knicks jumped on a plane following the contest in Cleveland and traveled to Atlanta for a Sunday matchup against the Hawks.