The New York Knicks tossed a wrinkle into the Eastern Conference playoff race Saturday by upsetting the Indiana Pacers.
And on Monday night, the Knicks will hope to build on the momentum and create a rare winning streak when they visit a fellow lottery-bound club, the Cleveland Cavaliers, in the final game of the season between the teams.
The Knicks climbed out of a three-way tie for the Eastern Conference basement on Saturday by racing out to a 17-point lead and surviving a second-half surge by the host Pacers in a 92-85 win. New York wriggled free of the Cavaliers, who remained at the bottom of the conference Saturday as they continued skidding with a 131-112 loss to the visiting Golden State Warriors.
Any win for the Knicks — they’re 4-12 in their past 16 games — is a much-needed one, but the victory Saturday was particularly timely. New York played Saturday for the first time since Wednesday’s embarrassing 127-106 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies in which guard Elfrid Payton earned a one-game suspension for nearly starting a brawl after he shoved the Grizzlies’ Jae Crowder for stealing an in-bounds pass and lofting a 3-pointer in the final minute.
Things got worse afterward for the Knicks when Marcus Morris Sr. described Crowder as “woman-like” and said he plays with “a lot of female tendencies.”
The forward apologized multiple times before stepping onto the court Saturday, when he scored a game-high 28 points while leading the Knicks to one of their most impressive efforts of the season. New York allowed its second-fewest points of the season and held the Pacers to 11 points in the first quarter and 14 in the fourth quarter.
“We defended really well against a really good team,” Morris said afterward. “I came in locked in and wanted to get a win. We all played well. It’s a good win for us.”
The Cavaliers, who remain tied for the worst record in the East with the Atlanta Hawks, are in desperate need of a feel-good night after losing for the 10th time in 11 games Saturday.
Cleveland has lost seven of those games by double figures and has fallen to a sub-.500 team six times, including Saturday, when the Cavaliers trailed 61-59 at the half before being outscored 44-19 in the third quarter by the NBA-worst Warriors.
“I don’t have a lot of answers for you, though, I really don’t,” first-year Cavaliers head coach John Beilein said. “It’s all together, the offense and the defense.”
The Cavaliers are 13-37, which means Beilein has experienced defeat almost as much this season as his final four years combined coaching at Michigan, when he steered the Wolverines to a 112-40 record before jumping to the NBA.
“Every loss is hitting me really hard,” Beilein said. “It’s just trying to find solutions and trying to find a better way to get our guys to play harder and smarter, which will lead to wins.”
The Knicks have won two of three games against the Cavaliers on the season.
–Field Level Media