Sam SpiegelmanThe New York Knicks’ season-best eight-game win streak came a halt Sunday night when the Cleveland Cavaliers rallied in the fourth quarter to win 106-100.
Even without Kyrie Irving, who was averaging 30 points per game in three games against the Knicks (29-41), the Cavaliers received big-time contributions late from his backup, Jarrett Jack. The veteran point guard finished with a career-high 31 points and 10 assists on 68.4-percent shooting, including a number of key buckets down the stretch. Jack scored five consecutive to tie it up at 90, then after Carmelo Anthony put the Knicks back up by one, Jack’s jump shot gave Cleveland the lead once and for all.
“Jack made some tough shots down the stretch. That was the biggest adjustment,” Tyson Chandler said, who was limited to four points and six rebounds.”Every time we seemed to make a run, they made a big play.”
New York held a 15-point lead at the break and were up as much as 17 points at one point, and at that time it looked as if the team was going to cruise to victory. But the Cavaliers (27-44) responded with a 31-point third quarter. With about nine minutes remaining, the Knicks’ lead dwindled down to five.
The loss not only snaps the longest winning streak of the season, but marked a missed opportunity to cut within 1.5 games of the Atlanta Hawks for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.
“We came out flat (and) didn’t have the intensity we needed,” Amar’e Stoudemire said.
“They won this game. We lost it,” Anthony said, who despite scoring a game-high 32 points missed 11 of his final 13 shots, including an 0-for-5 mark in the fourth quarter.
The Knicks trail the Hawks by three games with 12 remaining on the schedule and previously trailed Atlanta by four games with 14 left.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only one NBA team in the past three decades has successfully overcame a four-game deficit or more with 14 games remaining to make the postseason.
The team’s five-game road trip out West begins Tuesday at the Staples Center with the Los Angeles Lakers and includes playoff-bound squads in the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors. And as expected, every game becomes a must-win for the Orange and Blue.
“We got to keep winning, one game at a time,” Stoudemire said.
“We have to go out on the road and try to win all five if we can,” head coach Mike Woodson said.