NEW YORK — The short-handed Cleveland Cavaliers, using just nine players, kept their slim playoff hopes alive behind a season-high 31 points and 10 assists from guard Jarret Jack in a 106-100 win over the New York Knicks Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
Cleveland (27-44) trails the Atlanta Hawks by 5 1/2 games for the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The come-from-behind win by Cleveland, which trailed by 15 points at the half, ended the Knicks’ (29-40) eight-game winning streak.
Jack, who started in place of Cleveland’s leading scorer Kyrie Irving, who is out due to a biceps injury, scored 13 points in the fourth quarter. The double-double was Jack’s first of the season and 22nd in his eight-year career. He became the 15th player to score a personal best in points against the Knicks this season.
Guard Dion Waiters, getting a rare start, scored 22 points and forward Luol Deng scored 13 points in his return from a three-game absence with a sprained left ankle for Cleveland, which snapped a four-game losing streak.
Cleveland shot 23-for-30 (76.7 percent) from the floor in the second half. Only center Tyler Zeller didn’t score among the Cavaliers’ nine players.
In addition to missing Irving, the Cavaliers were without starting forward Anthony Bennett (left patellar tendon strain) and guard C.J. Miles (left ankle sprain).
Forward Carmelo Anthony scored 32 points for the Knicks. Anthony managed just five points in the fourth quarter, when he shot 0-for-5 from the field.
The Knicks trail the Hawks, who lost to Toronto earlier Sunday, by three games for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
“It’s very tough,” said Knicks coach Mike Woodson of the missed opportunity to gain ground on Atlanta. “We could have moved within two games if we handled business and we didn’t. I take full responsibility for that.”
A Jack basket and two free throws by guard Matthew Dellavedova iced the game for Cleveland in the final 24 seconds.
“Once (Jarrett) Jack and (Dion) Waiters got going, it was tough to get stop,” Woodson said. “They made some tough shots. Even when we made the switch when Raymond got knocked off, he (Jack) still made some tough shots over Tyson (Chandler), which I thought was the difference in the game.”
Anthony’s two free throws moved the Knicks to within 102-100 with 42 seconds left after Jack’s 20-foot jumper gave the Cavaliers a 102-96 lead with 1:45 to play.
A 3-pointer from guard Dion Waiters and a layup from center Anderson Varejao lifted Cleveland to a 100-94 cushion with 2:37 to play.
Deng’s 3-pointer gave Cleveland its first lead since early in the game at 93-92 with 5:45 remaining. Jack tied the score at 90-90 with a jumper with 7:28 left.
“Being a point guard, you love to have the ball in your hands,” said Jack. “I was just trying to make the proper play. Whether it was me or Dion (Waiters) knocking down 3’s or Loul (Deng) getting open, we were able to keep them (Knicks) honest.”
Cleveland cut the Knicks’ lead to 73-70 on a 7-0 burst with 4:52 left in the third quarter, but New York remained on top 84-77 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Knicks’ ball movement on the perimeter led to a 61-46 halftime lead. Guard Raymond Felton (14 points) recorded all eight of his assists in the first half as the Knicks were 8-for-12 from the beyond the 3-point arc in the half.
The Knicks shot 17-for-21 (71.4 percent) from the floor in the first quarter, taking a 34-27 lead. Anthony connected on six of his seven shots for 14 points. Waiters contributed 10 points in the quarter.
“We’re a very, very young ball club,” said Jack. “It’s a process trying to play hard every night. It’s a skill. That’s what separates the good teams from the middle of the pack.”
NOTES: New York was without G Iman Shumpert, who was sidelined with the flu. … The Knicks start a five-game road trip against the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday. … Knicks G Tim Hardaway Jr. began the day third among NBA rookies in free-throw (82 percent) and 3-point (36.5 percent) accuracy. … Knicks F Carmelo Anthony is averaging a career-best 8.3 rebounds per game. He pulled down eight boards Sunday. … F Amar’e Stoudemire averaged 18 points during the Knicks’ eight-game winning streak. … The Cavaliers are the only team in the league with three players in the Eastern Conference’s top 10 rebound leaders — C Anderson Varejao (10.0), F Tristan Thompson (9.3) and C Spencer Hawes (8.5). … Cleveland G Dion Waiters is the highest-scoring bench player in the Eastern Conference this season at 14.7 ppg. … Cavaliers G Kyrie Irving, who turned 22 on Sunday, missed his fourth straight game with a left biceps strain. … The Knicks are the first NBA team to win eight straight games immediately after a seven-game losing streak since the 1992-93 Houston Rockets.
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