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NBA: Knicks face Cavs looking for some consistency

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Are the New York Knicks the team that never led in a loss to the rebuilding Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, or the team that stormed back from a 21-point deficit to rout the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks on Friday?

For now, the answer is somewhere in the middle. The Knicks look to establish some consistency when they host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday night.

Both teams had eventful victories Friday. While the Knicks were stunning the host Bucks 113-98, Darius Garland sank the tying and go-ahead free throws with 4.8 seconds left as the visiting Cavaliers overcame a 15-point second-half deficit and edged the Toronto Raptors 102-101.

The Knicks appeared headed for a third straight loss when they trailed the Bucks 38-19 and twice fell behind by 21 points early in the second. But New York pulled within seven by the half, took the lead for good on RJ Barrett’s layup with 1:40 left in the third and led by as many as 22 in the fourth quarter.

“You don’t want to get down like we did, but we did,” Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “It’s a long game and we kept fighting and got it down to a manageable number.”

The win by the Knicks marked the first time since at least the 1997-98 season — the first in which the NBA started tracking the play-by-play in box scores — that they won a game by double digits after trailing by at least 20 points.

Of course, the Bucks were without Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez.

“It’s big,” said guard Derrick Rose, who finished with 23 points off the bench. “Especially when you lose two, it was big because it was the next game, and the next game was against the champs. This could thrust us forward into the area we want to be in — consistency.”

The Cavaliers, who have missed the playoffs in each of the last three seasons following LeBron James’ departure for the Los Angeles Lakers, have won three straight by a combined seven points to improve to 6-4. It’s just the third time Cleveland has been multiple games over .500 since James’ final season in his hometown in 2017-18.

The formula was different Friday for the Cavaliers, who almost squandered a 17-point fourth-quarter lead in a 113-110 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday and withstood a last-second game-tying 3-point attempt by the Portland Trail Blazers in a 107-104 win Wednesday.

Cleveland didn’t lead Friday until Garland’s free throws, after which the Raptors’ OG Anunoby missed a jumper and Scottie Barnes couldn’t hit the tip-in at the buzzer.

“There’s something special growing in that locker room,” head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said of the Cavaliers, whose starters Friday — Garland, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen, Collin Sexton and Dean Wade — all were 24 or younger.

–Field Level Media

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