A lot happened before, during and after Cleveland Cavaliers huge fourth quarter showing to overturn a 23 point deficit and beat New York Knicks 107-104 at Madison Square Garden.
There are a lot of things to take away from the game which hardly looked exciting on paper looking at the way either team’s play in the season had panned out.
For the Knicks, winning seven in 12 games prior to losing to the Cavs, represented the perfect situation the team wants to be in during a rebuilding phase albeit on the low side compared to bigger stories being written in Boston, Detroit and Philadelphia.
For Cleveland, everything has gone wrong this season and maybe the inspired win over New York for its first winning streak of the season could finally get them playing well again. From LeBron James barbs at Frank Ntilikina which he claimed was directed at former Knicks President Phil Jackson, to Enes Kanter’s response and scuffle on the court, a lot did happen at the World’s Most Famous Sports Arena.
There was the infamous subway ride by Cavs players that irked a few New Yorkers going about their routine train ride. Still there was enough drama for James to call himself King in front of the cameras and on social media after the game. One thing that characterized the game for sure is New York Center Kanter’s constant chippy dialogue with the league’s biggest stars.
In his time with Oklahoma City Thunder, Kanter had a few choice words for ex teammate Kevin Durant after his move to Golden State Warriors. From the looks of it his latest target in a new uniform is LeBron James. Aside, the non basketball drama that enveloped this tie, a lot of real on court stuff took place under the intense lights of the world’s biggest city which have a ton of repercussions beyond this season.
LeBron won’t be a Knick
The stand out issue picked up from the game is that the New York Knicks can cross LeBron James off their list of potential free agency targets. In the few times James has been a free agent in his 15 year stay in the league, the Knicks have always been in the conversation to flex its financial muscle and lure him to the Big Apple. During the “Decision” and “I’m Coming Home” episodes, the Knicks have been in the mix particularly when LeBron’s friend Carmelo Anthony was on the roster. However, the animosity James still has for the franchise due to Jackson’s racially laced comment to LeBron James last season.
That sting led him to praise Dallas Mavericks Guard Dennis Smith Jnr. over Jackson’s pick Ntilikina in this year’s draft. Following the departure of the Zen Master, one would have thought the storm had ceased until Monday night happened so we now know James isn’t letting the slur go anytime soon which erases any chance of playing for the Knicks after this season when he becomes a free agent. It also means Los Angeles Clippers racial association following former owner Donald Sterling’s similar insult a few seasons ago, takes them out of contending for James services.
Phil Jackson should be a talent scout
While many within and outside the Garden loathe him for his shaky time at the helm, few can deny Phil Jackson’s eye for talent. This should be his new profession once he decides to make another comeback to the sport he leads as the most successful figure. His insistence on using the Triangle offense in the modern NBA without transcendent talent like Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan was a major reason behind New York’s dysfunction. His choices in free agency did little to help move the team out of the deep hole it was in and still is. By handing out a four year, $72 million deal to a spent Joakim Noah, Jackson crippled New York’s chances of managing salary cap space based on the development of Kristaps Porzingis.
However, Jackson aced his shots at the draft by bringing in Porzingis and Ntilikina from Europe to the chagrin of many. Kristaps has demonstrated he is Europe’s next MVP winner aside Giannis Antetokounmpo based on his delightful play in three seasons in the league. After registering six steals, Ntilikina has the highest steal total for a Knicks rookie since 1987 and more importantly, his partnership with Porzingis gives New York foundational pieces to build on. Prior to the game, the duo had the best net efficiency of any duo who log at least 50 minutes on the floor.
The Knicks have a bright future
New York Knicks battle with the Cavaliers showed a franchise with a bright future and the right fundamentals to develop a winning culture quickly to match that improved form. Yes they lost but after nearly registering a blowout win, this team has shown it is destined for bigger things.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter