Knicks, Cavs show improvement ahead of meeting
The New York Knicks take their second winning streak of the season into Thursday night's game against the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers in a matchup of the Eastern Conference's two worst teams.
New York (13-48) is in last place in the conference, one game behind Cleveland. The Knicks are 1 1/2 games ahead of the Phoenix Suns, who have the NBA's worst record.
The league's three worst teams will hold a 14 percent chance at winning the draft lottery, with Duke star Zion Williamson projected to be the top overall pick. None of those three teams will pick lower than fifth.
While Williamson and an abundance of salary cap space is a topic for the future of the Knicks, the present has looked good in the past two games.
The Knicks ended a team-record 18-game home losing streak with a 130-118 win over San Antonio on Sunday and followed up by rallying from a 16-point deficit to dominate the fourth quarter in a 108-103 win over Orlando on Tuesday.
Those two performances give the Knicks a chance at their second three-game winning streak of the season. New York also won three straight in late November, beating Boston, New Orleans and Memphis.
On Tuesday, New York's reserves totaled 75 points, led by Emmanuel Mudiay and rookie Mitchell Robinson.
Mudiay scored 19 points and is averaging 17.7 points in three games since returning from a shoulder injury that cost him nearly a month.
Robinson totaled 17 points, 14 rebounds, six blocks, and three steals in 33 minutes. Robinson is averaging 10.9 points and 8.9 rebounds in his last 10 games. Coach David Fizdale said the second-round pick is being helped by the presence of DeAndre Jordan, who was obtained from Dallas on Jan. 31.
"I'm not putting a ceiling on him. If he believes it, I'm with him," Fizdale said of Robinson.
"He's showing that he's an elite shot-blocker. Obviously, I'm going to keep trying to grow him and build him up where he's going to play more and more minutes. But the sky's the limit for that kid.
"His impact on the game on the defensive end is special. I mean, the guy is blocking jumpers, he's guarding guards, he's now starting to talk -- that's a big part of DeAndre Jordan being here."
Jordan (sprained left ankle) might miss a third straight game Thursday.
Cleveland has won three of five games and is 5-6 in its past 11 games since dropping 18 of 19 from Dec. 19 to Jan. 25. After beating Phoenix and Memphis, the Cavaliers absorbed a 123-110 loss to Portland on Monday, when they trailed 71-48 at halftime before cutting the deficit to four points entering the fourth quarter.
"We showed a lot of heart in fighting back," Cleveland forward Kevin Love said. "Tough go. We were saying how it didn't feel like a double-digit loss. It just got away from us a little bit there at the end."
Cedi Osman scored 27 points while Kevin Love added 18 and 12 rebounds in 28 minutes while playing in his fifth game since returning from foot surgery.
Osman is averaging 19.6 points in his last nine games.
"I thought Cedi really played exceptional," Love said. "I told him he's free-flowing, either he's playing downhill, he has his shot, or he gets off the ball and gets it back -- that's really helping us."
Love, who remains limited to between 25 and 30 minutes per game, is averaging 16.8 points and nine rebounds since returning.
The Cavaliers won a pair of close games in the first two meetings this season -- both in Cleveland. The Cavs have won in each of their past nine visits to the Knicks, although those were all with LeBron James on the team.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 27, 2019