Carmelo Anthony sat out Saturday night’s game against the Cavaliers due to a sprained ankle he suffered in Thursday’s win over the Lakers. Without him, the Eastern Conference leading Knicks almost ended up with a loss to a Cavaliers team that now has a record of just five wins against 20 losses on the season.
New York held on for a 103-102 home victory, but Kyrie Irving was the sole reason the game was that close.
Irving poured in a carer-high 41 points, on 15-of-25 shooting from the field, including 5-of-8 from three-point distance. He also finished with five rebounds and five assists, in under 40 minutes of action. He did all of this with a mask on his face, looking like some sort of superhero out there while needing it to protect a broken bone in his jaw that was suffered while playing Friday night against the Bucks.
This Cavaliers team isn’t quite as bad as their record would indicate, at least in terms of the effort they bring on a nightly basis. And with Irving there and able to come through with superstar performances like these, the team will be involved in more games like these than it is not.
The Knicks had this one in hand, leading by 10 with under six minutes to play. That’s when Irving truly took control, scoring all 17 of his fourth-quarter points in the game’s final 5:30 to bring his team back and give them a chance to win it at the very end.
Irving hit two threes on consecutive possessions with under 30 seconds left to cut into a six-point gap, and turn the game into a foul-shooting contest over the final few possessions.
With nine seconds remaining, Steve Novak missed his second of two free throw attempts, and the New York lead was down to two with the Cavaliers bringing the ball up the floor.
Irving was double-teamed out top behind the three-point arc, but found a cutting Anderson Varejao, who was fouled by J.R. Smith with just a second remaining.
Varejao made the first free throw, but the second one was in and out, and the Knicks escaped, despite Irving’s spectacular performance.