NEW YORK — The difference wasn’t Donovan Mitchell. It was Julius Randle.
Behind a 36-point, 13-rebound effort from Randle, the Knicks avoided a fourth-quarter collapse Tuesday and toppled the Cavaliers, 105-103, snapping their four-game losing streak.
Randle was one of the late-game heroes with a go-ahead 3-pointer with two minutes remaining, and Isaiah Hartenstein stopped a game-tying bucket by contesting Mitchell at the rim in the final seconds.
Mitchell, the All-Star who the Knicks failed to acquire in the summer, finished with 24 points in 38 minutes on 9 of 24 shooting.
The Knicks (26-23) shot 17 from 33 from beyond the arc. They won their first game since center Mitchell Robinson suffered a broken thumb.
The dramatic ending Tuesday occurred because the Knicks squandered an 11-point advantage in the fourth quarter. Then with a chance to put the game away, RJ Barrett air-balled a wide-open trey with 15 seconds left.
That set up Cleveland’s final possession with a two-point deficit. Mitchell drove into the paint and was met at the rim by Hartenstein, who did enough without fouling to maintain the lead. Mitchell grabbed his own rebound and threw it out to Evan Mobley, who missed a turnaround at the buzzer.
Mitchell appeared to injure his leg on the play and limped off the court.
Immanuel Quickley returned to the rotation after missing Sunday’s loss in Toronto with a sore knee. He logged 27 minutes with nine points..
Evan Fournier, meanwhile, was unavailable for personal reasons – the birth of his son. He wouldn’t have played anyway with Quickley healthy.
The Cavs (29-20) are enjoying a strong season but have been poor on the road with a 9-15 record. The Knicks struggled at home. So something had to give. And it was the Cavaliers, who’ve lost twice this season at MSG.
‘NOVA HONORING BRUNSON
Jalen Brunson will have his jersey retired by Villanova during its game Feb. 8 against DePaul.
Brunson won two national titles in three years with the Wildcats, earning National Player of the Year in 2018.
“Jalen put together one of the most amazing Villanova Basketball careers ever,” Villanova coach Kyle Neptune said in a statement. “His remarkable will and work ethic left an indelible mark on our program. He set a standard of excellence, on and off the court, that still impacts us today. We can’t wait to celebrate Jalen’s legendary Villanova career with the Nova Nation.”
The Knicks play the SIxers in Philadelphia – about a 30-minute drive from Villanova — two days after the ceremony.
NEW ALL-STAR FORMAT
The NBA announced the All-Star draft will take place right before tipoff. Like a true pickup game.
The two team captains – which will likely be LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo based on the last count of fan votes – will pick from the pool of All-Stars.
Last year the captains drafted their team 10 days before the game.
The Knicks have two All-Star hopefuls – Brunson and Randle – but neither are garnering enough votes for a starting spot and will need to be picked by the coaches as a reserve.