The Cleveland Cavaliers were able to snap out of their doldrums in the second half Wednesday night.
The New York Knicks are hoping a return home after a long road trip leads to a similar awakening Friday night, when they are scheduled to host the Cavaliers in the third meeting of the season between Eastern Conference rivals.
The Cavaliers snapped a two-game losing streak when they pulled away in the second half of a 122-107 victory over the visiting Detroit Pistons. The Knicks ended a four-game road trip with their third straight loss Tuesday, when they squandered a 13-point halftime lead and fell to the Utah Jazz, 108-94.
On Wednesday, the Cavaliers initially looked as if they were still feeling the effects of playing and losing to a pair of elite teams on back-to-back days. Cleveland fell to the Boston Celtics by 38 points on Sunday before returning home and losing to LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, 115-108, on Monday night.
The Cavaliers led 38-30 early in the second period before falling behind by eight points after allowing the Pistons to go on a 23-7 run. But Cleveland climbed back within 56-54 at the half and never trailed after Cedi Osman opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer.
"I thought in the first half, we were disjointed for whatever reason," head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said of the Cavaliers, who led by as many as 19 in the fourth quarter. "But in the second half, I thought we did an unbelievable job of playing with one another."
Thanks to an unbelievably hot start by Austin Rivers, the Knicks looked as if they might be able to salvage a split of their west coast trip against the Jazz. Rivers scored 25 points in the first half while going 10-for-10 from the field, one shy of the team record for most field goals made without a miss to start a game.
But Rivers exited after picking up his third foul with 4:30 left in the second quarter. He didn't return until almost eight minutes into the third quarter and missed his final four shots.
Rivers' fade mirrored that of the Knicks, who were on the road for the 12th time in 19 games. New York entered the fourth quarter with an 81-80 lead but gave up the first 11 points of the period and was outscored 28-13 in the final 12 minutes.
"I don't know how a schedule could be tougher than what we've played," Rivers said prior to Tuesday's game. "Physically and mentally."
Head coach Tom Thibodeau wasn't willing to blame the schedule for the Knicks' recent woes. New York started 5-3 but has been an up-and-down 3-8 since with one three-game winning streak sandwiched between five- and three-game losing streak.
"The schedule is the schedule," Thibodeau said. "You could probably find an excuse for every game. That's what you have to guard against. You have to have the mental toughness to get through anything you're facing."
(Field Level Media)