Without Carmelo Anthony, Knicks Put Up Fight but Fall to Cavaliers


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Kevin Love, top, and Kristaps Porzingis battling for a rebound on Wednesday.

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Tony Dejak/Associated Press

CLEVELAND — Carmelo Anthony positioned himself in front of a television on Wednesday and settled in for a long night of solitude inside the visitors’ locker room at Quicken Loans Arena. Relegated to the role of spectator by a sprained right ankle, Anthony watched the Knicks play the Cavaliers without him.

He watched his teammates defend. He watched them move the ball. He watched them give the crowd a case of agita. And then he watched them lose.

A determined effort by the Knicks fell short in a 91-84 loss as the Cavaliers countered everything that Kristaps Porzingis could throw at them, which was a lot.

Porzingis finished with a team-high 23 points and added 13 rebounds, a solid effort after some recent struggles. But he went silent late, with just one field-goal attempt in the fourth quarter — a 58-foot heave at the buzzer, with the game beyond reach.

“Hopefully,” Coach Derek Fisher said, “we can kind of learn from this in terms of being able to utilize him more.”

It was a disappointing result tempered by Porzingis’s re-emergence — and by the team’s strong performance against one of the N.B.A.’s resident behemoths. The Knicks (14-16) limited the Cavaliers to 38.6 percent field-goal shooting for the game but were outscored by 19-12 in the fourth.

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“I think our fight was there,” said Porzingis, who shot 8 of 18 from the field and 4 of 5 from 3-point range. “They were better at the end. We couldn’t figure out how to finish the game.”

In the third, Porzingis scored in every conceivable fashion: a 3-pointer, a putback dunk, a midrange jumper. He also passed out of a double team to Jose Calderon, who made a 3-pointer that tied the game at 68-68. It was an exceptional stretch that left the crowd dazed.

Early in the fourth, the Knicks went ahead briefly on a layup by Lou Amundson, but the game remained tight. The Cavaliers (19-7) finally pulled away when LeBron James followed a layup in transition with two free throws for an 86-82 lead. He later beat Lance Thomas off the dribble for a baseline dunk that sealed the game.

Porzingis said he deferred late to Arron Afflalo, who was more much assertive. He shot 4 of 10 from the field in the fourth. Also problematic: the Cavaliers’ Tristan Thompson, who draped himself over Porzingis like plastic wrap, limiting his looks.

“I have to be more aggressive at the end,” Porzingis said. “As I get more experienced and as I get more comfortable, I’ve got to take a little bit of that responsibility at the end and take the ball and create for teammates.”

James scored a game-high 24 points, and Kevin Love added 23 points for the Cavaliers, who will face the Golden State Warriors on Friday in a rematch of last season’s N.B.A. finals. Kyrie Irving, in his second game back since fracturing a kneecap six months ago, scored 5 points. Iman Shumpert, healthy after wrist and groin injuries, finished with 8.

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Anthony injured his ankle in Monday’s loss to the Orlando Magic. On Wednesday, after participating in the team’s morning shootaround, Anthony said his ankle felt “pretty good,” and he sounded cautiously optimistic that he would play.

But later, after additional testing, he concluded that he needed to sit out. He felt fine running and jumping, he said, but cutting and moving from side to side proved more difficult.

“I don’t think it will linger that much,” Anthony said. “But I just felt like if I’d have went out there tonight, I probably wouldn’t have been myself, trying to do too much on it. And that would have probably prolonged the situation. So I’d rather just take care of it right now and use the next couple of days and get some rest.”

The Knicks are in the early stages of a difficult stretch. Next up for them are back-to-back road games: against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday and the Boston Celtics on Sunday. Anthony said he was hopeful that he would be ready for both. Fisher acknowledged that the schedule was a factor in the decision to have Anthony sit out.

If nothing else, Fisher said, many of Anthony’s teammates are accustomed to playing (if not winning) without him. Last season, Anthony missed the final 30 games with a knee injury. His absence meant ample playing time for teammates like Thomas, whose improvement has been apparent this season.

On Wednesday, he started in Anthony’s place, played 34 minutes and contributed 8 points on 4-of-11 shooting. Fisher said he had wrestled with the decision, largely because Thomas had been playing so well off the bench. Fisher was hesitant to disrupt Thomas’s rhythm.

It was a test for Thomas, who also defended James for long stretches. Thomas was undaunted, pressuring James at every opportunity. James’s frustration reached a crescendo in the second quarter when he was called for a technical foul after barking at one of the officials.

“We had our opportunities,” Fisher said. “We have to accept that and be a no-excuse team. The things that happened out there, whether Carmelo’s playing or not, you can’t do those things against the best teams in the league and expect to win.”



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