CLEVELAND (AP) — As the crowd’s roar enveloped him, Kevin Love wrapped his arms around Darius Garland and thought back to those days when the Cavaliers were the biggest game in town.
They are again.
Love scored 20 points — nine straight in a 3-point barrage in just over a minute of the third quarter — and Garland added 12 assists and a critical late 3-pointer as Cleveland held on to beat the New York Knicks 95-93 on Monday night.
At 29-19, the Cavs, who won just 22 games last season, are 10 games over .500 for the first time since 2018, when they made the last of four straight appearances in the Finals with LeBron James.
After Love sank his third 3-pointer in 67 seconds, Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse roared they way it used to.
“I felt those four years we were making those runs,” Love said.
The Knicks fought back from a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter and had a chance to win, but Julius Randle’s 38-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer was way short.
“With the final one, they did a good job taking the corner away,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Julius wound up with a tough shot. Credit to their defense for the way they played us.”
Rookie Evan Mobley had 15 points and 12 rebounds, and Isaac Okoro scored 14 points for the Cavs, who have won seven of eight and played much better after a sloppy win over Oklahoma City on Saturday.
RJ Barrett scored 24 points and Randle 18 for the Knicks. New York had several chances in the final two minutes, but Immanuel Quickly missed an ill-advised 3-pointer (he was 1 of 10 from the field) and Barrett was long on a 3.
“I think we should have won the game,” Barrett said. “That’s for sure. It was just little things we can control that we’ve got to tighten up.”
Love, who has embraced his role as a reserve this season, scored 14 in the third quarter as the Cavs built a 14-point lead. The five-time All-Star’s shooting spree pushed Cleveland’s lead to 72-61.
After the final make, coming on Garland’s 11th assist, New York called a timeout and Love wrapped his arms around Cleveland’s young point guard.
“I’ve tried to be one of the vets in his life to tell him what to do and what not to do,” Love said. “I’ve been telling him, keep leading us.”
The Cavs led 86-71 with 9:41 left after reserve Dean Wade dropped a 3-pointer.
But the Knicks fought back as Barrett, Quentin Grimes and Obi Toppin made 3-pointers in an 11-0 burst. New York caught Cleveland when Randle muscled way his to the hoop for a layup to tie it 91-all.
Garland, who finished with 13 points, countered by corralling a long rebound near New York’s bench and hitting a 3-pointer from the corner, and the Cavs did just enough to hang on.
“It basically came down to a loose ball and a rebound that they turned into a transition 3,” Thibodeau said. “You can’t recklessly gamble defensively and leave an open 3. You’ve got to find a way to win. That’s the bottom line.”
Knicks: Went 11 of 21 on free throws. … C Mitchell Robinson sat out with a sprained right ankle sustained on Sunday against the Clippers. … Derrick Rose remains sidelined with a right ankle sprain. He last played on Dec. 16.
Cavaliers: Were missing two-thirds of their “tall ball” lineup as both center Jarrett Allen (illness) and 7-foot forward Lauri Markkanen (ankle) sat out. Markkanen got hurt Saturday. The team is maintaining he’s day to day, but it’s safe to assume he’ll likely miss multiple games, if not weeks. … G Rajon Rondo made his home debut after missing six games with a hamstring injury. He had eight points and three assists in 18 minutes. … Cleveland has 14 home wins after going 13-23 last season.
Not surprisingly, Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff doesn’t share the same musical tastes of his young players. He’s old school.
“We have some people, if it didn’t happen after 2000, it didn’t happen,” Bickerstaff cracked.
But that doesn’t stop Bickerstaff from playing his favorite tunes during shootarounds. He does it to keep the mood light and maybe educate his players on artists like Mary J. Blige or Bob Marley.
It doesn’t suit the 21-year-old Okoro.
“His music brings the energy down,” Okoro said, taking a playful swipe at his coach. “I tell him every day to change the music, but he doesn’t listen to me.”
Knicks: Continue their three-game trip Wednesday at Miami.
Cavaliers: Host the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday.
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