Darius Garland exploded for a career-best 51 points, but the Cleveland Cavaliers’ fierce rally against the Minnesota Timberwolves just came up short 129-124.
Garland’s epic line included shooting 16-of-31 from the field with 10 triples, six assists and two steals.
It marked the highest individual scoring performance in the NBA this season and the first player to drop 50 points, while the 22-year old became the youngest player in league history with 50 points and 10 threes.
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Playing without Donovan Mitchell and Jarrett Allen, the Cavaliers went down big early and faced a huge deficit all game including trailing by as much as 22 points with 10 minutes left in the fourth.
Just like all game, it was all set to be a big blowout … enter Garland.
Cleveland charged home with a rush behind dominant play from Garland, who poured in a whopping 27 points in the final nine minutes of the game alone to cut the Timberwolves’ lead to 126-124 with eight seconds left.
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D’Angelo Russell then went to the line and missed one free throw to give Cleveland a chance tie up the scores with a three-pointer, but Rudy Gobert made a timely steal and Taurean Prince made two free throws to seal the win for Minnesota.
Russell led the Timberwolves with 30 points and 12 assists and Karl-Anthony Towns had 29 points and 13 rebounds.
It snapped a three-game losing streak Minnesota (6-8), while the Cavaliers (8-5) dropped their fourth in a row.
SGA TORCHES KNICKS
The Knicks have looked like a league-average team this season, each hint of momentum followed by a slam of the brakes.
So it tracked that an afternoon that began with a literal high point ended with another low.
The Knicks set a franchise record for points in a quarter in the first, yet proceeded to surrender their most points in a game in two-plus seasons under Tom Thibodeau. An electric start gave way to a defensive collapse in a 145-135 loss to the Thunder in front of 19,812 at a sold-out Garden on Monday.
The Knicks (6-7) slipped back under .500 with another loss that came on the heels of a victory. They have alternated wins and losses for seven straight games, generally beating teams they are supposed to beat and losing to teams they are supposed to lose to.
The Thunder (6-7) are in neither category, but they feature an emerging star the Knicks lack.
After a slow start, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — a potential trade target, should the middling Thunder decide to tank for a lottery pick — sliced through the Knicks’ defence at will for 37 points on 13-of-22 shooting with eight assists, three steals and two blocks.
SGA far outdueled RJ Barrett, looking like the more promising two-way wing while generating whatever shot he wanted — often against Barrett, who was a nonfactor and benched after picking up his fourth foul early in the third quarter.
“There was no resistance,” Thibodeau said after the Knicks surrendered their most points since Dec. 27, 2006 — when an Isiah Thomas-coached team also allowed 145 in a triple-overtime win over the Pistons.
They had not allowed as many as 145 in regulation since a 145-129 loss to the Kansas City Kings on Dec. 8, 1979. The Knicks have not given up more points in a game since March 24, 1979, when they lost 148-143 to the Bulls in double-overtime.
Even amid OKC’s offensive deluge, a strong offensive start — including a franchise-best 48 points in the first quarter — had the Knicks within 96-93 at 6:08 of the third quarter before a backbreaking Oklahoma City run put the game on ice.
The Thunder poured in 26 points in the final six minutes of the quarter, running their offence through Gilgeous-Alexander. In the third quarter alone, Gilgeous-Alexander went 7-for-10 with just one attempt (a swish) from beyond the arc. Whomever the Knicks threw at the 24-year-old with Barrett on the bench, from Cam Reddish to Derrick Rose, the long, lightning-quick Gilgeous-Alexander put on his hip.
“They were ready to play,” said Jalen Brunson, who along with Barrett was benched late in the game. “Made a couple more plays than us, and we should be walking out of here with a win, scoring that many points.
“Just defensively, we were just — myself included — we just weren’t right and unacceptable.”
The Knicks, who led by 13 in the first quarter, still managed to hear boos two periods later. They trailed by as many as 19 in the fourth, in which a strong bench effort — including 24 points from Immanuel Quickley — helped them claw back, but they only got as close as nine points.
Gilgeous-Alexander was so strong he overshadowed his own teammate’s triple-double, as Josh Giddey finished with 24 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds, while Lu Dort added 24 points. The Knicks allowed the Thunder to shoot 17-of-31 from beyond the arc.
“Can’t just let people get what they want,” said Barrett, who went 2-of-10 for four points. “Can’t let one guy have 30-something, another guy have 20-something, another guy gets a triple-double.
“We can’t allow stuff like that. It was too easy for them.”
It was too easy for the Knicks in the first quarter, riding a balanced attack — nine different Knicks scored in the period, and Jericho Sims and Obi Toppin seemed to be alternating possessions of finishing alley-oops — while they shot 64.5 per cent and turned the ball over once.
But as has been the story of the season, the good feelings went sour quickly. The Thunder combined for 86 points in the following two quarters.
“We have to take a hard look at (the defence) and then evaluate everything,” Thibodeau said. “And what’s the best way for us to have a chance to be successful.”
It will only get tougher for the Knicks, who embark on a five-games-in-seven-days trip that begins Wednesday in Utah and swings Thursday to Denver for a back-to-back that Evan Fournier called “probably the toughest in the league” because of the altitude and conditions in travelling.
“When you go west, it’s always a tough time, regardless of your dynamic,” said Fournier, who went 0-for-5 and was held scoreless. “It’s about how you respond.”
This season, the Knicks have not.
THUNDER 145 KNICKS 135
TIMBERWOLVES 129 CAVALIERS 124
GRIZZLIES 92 WIZARDS 102
JAZZ – 76ERS
NUGGETS – BULLS
WARRIORS – KINGS
NETS – LAKERS