The New York Knicks played spoilers to LeBron James’ homecoming to the Cleveland Cavaliers Thursday night, pulling off a 95-90 victory.
James struggled throughout the night, scoring 17 points on 5-15 shooting with 8 turnovers, and much of the Cavs looked disoriented and unfamiliar with each other. Meanwhile, the Knicks used a balanced team effort and some surprisingly stout defence to put the clamps on the Cavs.
However, late in the fourth quarter, with the game very much still in balance, the Knicks nearly blew their huge win.
Up five points with 2:18 to play, the Knicks were pressured by the Cavs defence, took forever to get into their offensive set, and ended up with a crucial shot clock violation.
As you can see, the Knicks didn’t even get the ball over until there were 16 seconds left in the clock, almost risking an 8-second violation to get the ball across halfcourt. Even still, the Knicks weren’t in their offence.
Then, after pointlessly passing the ball back and forth with no action, Knicks guard Iman Shumpert received the ball at the top of the key with 10 seconds left and had to force the action. The Knicks zipped around, guard Pablo Prigioni passed up an open layup, and forward Jason Smith held onto the ball, unaware of the clock expiring.
On the ensuing Cavs possession, Kyrie Irving drove to the basket for a layup, making it a three-point Knicks lead.
Then, on the very next play, the Cavs again pressed the Knicks in the back-court, and the Knicks didn’t get the ball across until about 15 seconds left were in the shot clock. The refs may have actually missed the violation, because they happen so infrequently:
And then when they did get into their offence, Carmelo Anthony held on to the ball too long, unable to create space against LeBron James. He dumped it off to J.R. Smith who was forced to try to create something out of nothing with the clock winding down:
The only positives the Knicks were able to take away from these blunders was taking almost a full minute off the clock. They totally lucked out on the following Cavs possession when Kevin Love missed an open three-pointer.
J.R. Smith and Anthony then made up for the previous plays in the final minute. On the next Knicks possession, Smith drove the lane for a floater to put the Knicks back up by five. After a layup by James on the other end, Carmelo Anthony stuck a jumper in James’ face to put the Knicks up five, effectively sealing the win.
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