NBA wrap: Cavaliers' rally deflates Knicks; LeBron James, Enes Kanter trade barbs

For three quarters Monday night, the Cavaliers-Knicks game played like something out of a too-ridiculous-to-be-true sports movie.

The Knicks, angry about recent comments LeBron James made about them, came out hot, building a 51-38 halftime lead. Along the way, the player some people felt James “dissed,” guard Frank Ntilikina, stole the ball six times, including once from James. And Ntilikina — with a little backup from Enes Kanter — had a testy on-court encounter with James that left the Garden crowd roaring its approval.

The Knicks led by 23 points, 73-50, with 2:12 left in the third quarter. This was going to be one of the biggest feel-good wins in recent Knicks history.

Instead, it turned into a loss that no one will forget anytime soon. The Cavaliers outscored the Knicks 43-20 in the fourth quarter to score an improbable 104-101 victory that stunned the Knicks and their fans. 

James had created a stir Saturday after the Cavs-Mavericks game, saying the Knicks should have drafted guard Dennis Smith Jr. this year. Instead, the Knicks took Ntilikina at No. 8 in the draft, letting Smith go with the next pick to Dallas.

While some took that as a slam against Ntilikina, James said Monday the remarks were “definitely a shot” at former Knicks president Phil Jackson.

James then definitely hit the shot that sank the Knicks Monday night, a go-ahead 3-pointer that gave the Cavs the lead at 100-97. 

According to ESPN, it marked the fourth-largest comeback of James’ long career, and the biggest comeback this season in the NBA.

After the game, Kanter and James traded barbs in their respective post-game media interviews. While Kanter had a clever line (“Call yourself king, queen, princess … whatever you want, we’re going to fight,”) James and the Cavs had the last laugh on this night.

Studs of the Night

Forward Darius Miller came off the bench to score 21 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter, to key the Pelicans’ 106-105 win against the Hawks. He was 5 of 8 from deep, nailing four of those in the final quarter.

Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns had 24 points and 13 rebounds in Minnesota’s 109-98 win over the Jazz. The T-Wolves got some balanced scoring in the win, with Jeff Teague adding 22 points and Jimmy Butler 21.

Dud of the Night

Grizzlies guard Mike Conley hit only 2-of-12 shots and finished with seven points in a 110-103 loss to the Bucks.

Highlight

Kelly Oubre Jr. shows great handles and hops on this dunk down the lane.

What’s Next

Celtics (12-2) at Nets (5-8) 7:30 p.m. ET — The Celtics will go for No. 13 in a row at the Barclays Center. While on any given night any NBA team can beat any other, Boston has the edge here. Celtics guard Kyrie Irving, who sat out Sunday’s game with a facial fracture, is traveling with the team and could play Tuesday. In case you’re wondering, the longest Celtics’ winning streak in history is 19, by the 2008-2009 team.

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