Knicks’ defense comes up big against Donovan Mitchell in ‘must-win’ – The Denver Post


At least for one night, the Knicks’ defense was revitalized and they didn’t need Donovan Mitchell.

With the summer’s failed trade negotiations serving as the backdrop, the Knicks turned up the intensity and toppled Mitchell’s Cavaliers on Sunday, 92-81.

Mitchell, who scored a ho-hum 23 points on 8-for-23 shooting, was stifled by Quentin Grimes, who logged 40 minutes and is finally healthy enough to live up to his defensive stopper label. Grimes acknowledged the matchup was personal after several teammates were being dangled in trade talks.

“It’s kind of just what everybody knows, just everything that was going on with the chatter over the summer. And adding how we lost the last game (on Saturday against the Mavericks). This was kind of a must-win for us for sure today,” Grimes said, adding, “I think people are lying if they say they’re not coming in with an edge and a chip on their shoulder.”

On the heels of that blowout defeat to Dallas — and riding a five-game home losing streak — coach Tom Thibodeau tinkered with his rotation by removing Derrick Rose and Cam Reddish. Both logged their first healthy DNPs of the season. Miles McBride was the first substitute but Thibodeau went heavy with the starters, with all five playing over 30 minutes.

Rose and Reddish were not made available by the Knicks after the game.

“I wanted to get it to nine-man rotation,” said Thibodeau, who added that Rose’s demotion may be temporary and due to rest on the second night of a back-to-back. “It worked a lot better.”

The results were indeed encouraging, especially on defense. Entering the night allowing over 116 points per game, they held the Cavaliers to their season low on a putrid 35% percent shooting.

It was a nice response to stem the negative flow pouring from the Knicks (11-13), but the victory won’t be relevant to the final determination on their decision to pass on Mitchell. Back in August,  Knicks president Leon Rose got skittish over relinquishing too many future draft picks. It allowed Cavs president Koby Altman to swoop in and land Mitchell for young players and three unprotected first-round picks.

According to multiple sources, Thibodeau was gung-ho about dealing for the three-time All-Star, believing he could make it work with a small backcourt of Mitchell and Brunson.

But negotiations stalled near the finish line, and Mitchell’s homecoming story was abandoned.

“I grew up coming here. I grew up hearing organ that plays defense (in MSG). The little things,” said Mitchell, a Westchester product who played AAU ball in Manhattan. “I grew up watching Amar’e Stoudemire, who was here (at the game Sunday), Carmelo (Anthony), JR (Smith), even Kristaps (Porzingis), which is weird to say. But just coming up watching the games and then just playing here it’s always great to play back at home. But I’m really pissed we didn’t get the win tonight because we were right there man. But it’s great to always come back home and play in front of this crowd.”

So Mitchell was the visitor Sunday and the loser.

“What’s done is done, and I’m happy as hell to be where I’m at,” he said. “At the end of the day, this decision was made and I don’t think I’ve been happier since I’ve been in the league. But I think for me it’s always going to be motivation to come back and play well in my hometown, but you could say that about anybody. But with what happened this summer, it’s over with, it happened and I’m happy to be with the Cavaliers.”



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