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Knicks fall to Cavaliers as losing streak reaches five

The Knicks' Julius Randle, center, drives between Cleveland

The Knicks' Julius Randle, center, drives between Cleveland Cavaliers' Isaac Okoro, left, and Cedi Osman during the second half of an NBA game Friday in Cleveland. Credit: AP/Tony Dejak

This was the chance the Knicks were waiting for. Reggie Bullock was back from injury, they had spent Thursday drawing up a new plan of action and, above all else, the Cavaliers — a team they already had beaten this season — were missing three starters, including their entire backcourt.

But that’s the thing about chances. You have to be ready to capitalize on them.

The Knicks played significantly better than they had in recent days, but fourth-quarter mishaps sunk their chances as they dropped their fifth game in a row, 106-103, at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

Seconds after drawing the Knicks within 98-97 with a 24-foot jumper, RJ Barrett turned the ball over on a driving layup and began the sequence of events that would seal the Knicks’ fate.

Damyean Dotson collected the turnover and Julius Randle committed a clear-path foul on him near midcourt. Dotson made both free throws and scored on the subsequent Cavs possession to make it 102-97 with 1:05 left.

"I came off the screen, I tried to go behind my back and [Andre] Drummond kicked the ball," Barrett said. "I’ll know for next time, I’ve got to make a better play. That’s on me."

Despite that, the Knicks had a few more chances to stage a comeback. Randle’s dunk got them to within three, but he couldn’t convert the three-point play. Bullock stole the ball with 30 seconds left but the Knicks couldn’t capitalize, and eventually time just ran out.

Drummond dominated throughout with 33 points and 23 rebounds and Cedi Osman shot 5-for-9 from three-point range and scored 25 points.

The Knicks had a handful of standout performances. Rookie Immanuel Quickley had 23 points, five rebounds and four assists in 28 minutes off the bench. Randle had 28 points and six assists and Barrett added 20 points. Nerlens Noel contributed six blocked shots.

The turnovers, Tom Thibodeau said, "were costly."

"It’s late, it’s the fourth quarter of the game and we have to understand that part of the game is different," he said. "The intensity is different, the way it’s officiated is different. A big part of learning is trial and error, so hopefully we can learn from it."

Thibodeau said the Knicks will continue to evaluate what they’re doing and that changing the starting lineup or rotation is a possibility. "Everything is on the table," he said.

The Knicks started off well, shooting 53.8% from the floor in the first half and holding the Cavaliers to 42.9% shooting in that span, which was largely responsible for them staying in the game early despite Drummond’s massive contributions. He had 20 points and 14 rebounds by halftime, though the Cavaliers managed only a 57-55 lead at the break. For the game, the Cavs outrebounded the Knicks 48-39.

"I thought we got good minutes out of our bench, so that was a positive," Thibodeau said. "We knew [the Cavs] were playing big. We didn’t rebound the ball as well as we could have, so that’s something that has to be fixed. We have to play better down the stretch."

The third quarter had two massive shifts — the first with the Cavaliers taking a 12-point lead, mostly behind Osman’s shooting, and the second with the Knicks’ defense-spurred comeback. Noel had two blocks and a defensive rebound in a 12-0 run capped by Austin Rivers’ layup with 30 seconds left. The score was tied at 80 after three quarters.

The Knicks kept the momentum going in the fourth, scoring the first four points, but the Cavs scored the next five, and the Knicks never regained the lead. They pulled within 98-97 when Barrett hit that jumper with 1:52 left but faltered in the aftermath.

"It’s tough," Quickley said. "You want to win every day. The rebounding was a big thing we talked about [during practice Thursday]. I don’t think we did as good as we could have, but we’ll go back and look at the film and we’ll get better."

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