557 Cleveland Cavaliers 210 + 188
558 New York Knicks – 5.5 – 225
A loss to Cleveland on Nov. 10 increased the heat on New York head coach David Fizdale. Eight days later, the Knicks can take another step toward cooling Fizdale’s seat when they host the Cavaliers again.
Both teams enter Monday’s game fresh off discouraging defeats. The Knicks were off Sunday after suffering a last-second 103-102 loss Saturday night to the visiting Charlotte Hornets. The Cavaliers will be completing a back-to-back set after falling at home 114-95 Sunday to the Philadelphia 76ers.
The loss Sunday was the third straight for the Cavaliers, who haven’t won since their 108-87 rout of the Knicks. Afterward, New York president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry held a rare dual press conference to express their disappointment with the team.
Perry said the Knicks had “to be consistent in all areas of the game, starting with the effort,” which certainly sounded as a warning to Fizdale, who’s in the second year of a four-year deal. He’s just 20-75 in New York and 70-126 overall as an NBA head coach.
The Knicks followed up the loss to the Cavs by getting outscored by 18 points in the fourth quarter of a 120-102 loss to the Chicago Bulls last Tuesday. But New York then earned a 106-103 win over the Dallas Mavericks — and former teammate Kristaps Porzingis — at a raucous Madison Square Garden on Thursday before leading the Hornets by as many as 15 points Saturday, when Charlotte’s Devonte Graham drained the go-ahead 28-footer from the top of the key with 2.1 seconds left.
Before giving up 103 points in back-to-back games, the Knicks surrendered at least 113 points in three of their previous five contests, a span in which they went 1-4.
“I don’t want to try to get any moral victory out of this,” Fizdale told reporters Saturday night. “But we are definitely getting better on the defensive end.”
First-year Cavaliers head coach John Beilein surely is on more solid footing than Fizdale, but Beilein, who headed to the NBA after winning 571 games and reaching two Final Fours in 27 seasons as a college coach, might be even more frustrated than Knicks upper management was eight days ago.
The loss to the 76ers Sunday came three days after the Cavaliers fell to the Miami Heat 108-97. The back-to-back double-digit losses are the first of the season for Cleveland.
“We got blown out in our own arena, on a Sunday afternoon in front of a great crowd,” Beilein said following the loss to the 76ers. “It measures you a little bit. And we’ve got to bounce back from it and find a way to make the changes in everything that we do — effort areas, defense, offense, rotations, everything. Just keep looking at it. Because these last two games have not been in the right direction.”