The Knicks were leading by 23 points at one point in the second half on Monday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was all down hill from there. The Knicks wound up losing to the Cavs 104-101 as they let up 43 fourth quarter points. The Knicks were playing great defense all night before then as they allowed 25 in the first, 13 in the second, and 23 in the third. So what changed in the fourth? Let’s take a look.
1. They let LeBron get hot
When LeBron James gets going, there is just no stopping him. Courtney Lee was playing great defense on LeBron through the first three quarters, but it was all downhill in the fourth. LeBron wound up with a double-double, which should have actually been a triple-double if it were not for Madison Square Garden taking away a rebound late. LeBron is the best in the world and when he wants to take over there is nothing that a team could do.
2. Kristaps had an off night
Kristaps Porzingis has been great so far this year, especially down the stretch when the Knicks need him most. Monday night was opposite of that. Porzingis did score 20 points, but he was 7/21 from the field and missed three key free throws late in the fourth quarter. If he hits those free throws the game may end in at least a tie and they go into overtime, then who knows what happens. Porzingis is just 22-years old and he is going to have off nights. It happens.
3. Jeff Hornacek mistakenly took out Enes Kanter
Jeff Hornacek took out Enes Kanter with about 3 minutes remaining in the game so he can put in his defensive group, but it backfired. Enes Kanter was having a great night as he finished with 20 points and 16 rebounds. Kanter was actually playing some solid defense on Monday night. There were a few times that Jae Crowder tried driving baseline on him and Kanter was able to shuffle his feet to cut him off. Kanter seemed to have his best defensive game the other night, but Hornacek did not see this. It also hurt because the Knicks gave the Cavaliers chance after chance as they were getting too many offensive rebounds. If Kanter was in there is a chance that he could have stopped some of these offensive rebounds from happening.
Even though the Knicks took the loss in this one, it is one to build off of. They already beat the Cavs once this year and they had this one in the bag before letting it slip away. They are proving that they can hang with anyone in the Eastern Conference this year. As they mature and continue to play with each other they will become better at closing out games. This is a very young team that has a lot of growing to do, but so far this year things are heading in the right direction.