The Cavaliers Can Still be Fun When They Try

It took a 23-point deficit, a charged crowd at Madison Square Garden and a manufactured rivalry for Cleveland to seemingly give a damn Monday night. The Cavs still only cared to play attentive basketball for about 12 minutes or so—but it was good enough for a 104–101, thrilling win against the Knicks.

The Cavs entered their showdown with the fun-and-frisky Knicks on the heels of LeBron James engaged in water-balloon-battle-of-words with Enes Kanter and Frank Ntilikina. In an effort to slight Phil Jackson one last time, James—while praising Dennis Smith Jr.—indirectly slighted Ntilikina, which set off an inconsequential back-and-forth between James and the Knicks in the media. The off-court talk eventually manifested on the hardwood when James, Kanter and Ntilikina engaged in what amounted to little more than a three-way staredown during the first half, a moment that ended up being the highlight of the night for the Knicks.

New York jumped out a huge lead over the Cavs shortly after Ntilikina’s show of bravery, looking primed to blowout Cleveland for the second time in as many matchups this season. But James and Co. rallied hard in the fourth quarter, pulling off the type of comeback his teams are good for four or five times a season.

And look, it’s silly to give the entire credit for this win to effort.

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