Julius Randle shot the lights out while Isaiah Hartenstein came up with big defensive plays down the stretch as the New York Knicks snapped their four-game losing streak.
Hartenstein foiled Donovan Mitchell twice inside the final minute — the last turned out to be the biggest difference maker — to preserve Randle’s big night as the Knicks held on to a gritty 105-103 win Tuesday night in front of an electric sold-out Madison Square Garden crowd.
A Knicks’ shot clock violation with 15.4 seconds left opened the backdoor for the Cavaliers. But Hartenstein came to help Randle and blocked Mitchell’s drive with 4.4 seconds left. Evan Mobley grabbed the offensive rebound but missed a hurried turnaround shot at the buzzer.
“I thought Isaiah (Hartenstein) made a huge play with [his] verticality,” New York coach Tom Thibodeau said.
Randle fired 17 points in the opening quarter and tied his career-high eight triples en route to another mammoth double-double effort with 36 and 13 rebounds along with four assists.
Despite a rousing start, the Knicks again let a double-digit lead slip away.
Cleveland roared back from a 13-point deficit to take an eight-point lead in the third quarter. But this time, New York fought back with a 19-6 closing run in the final 4:58 of the quarter to seize a five-point edge, 80-75.
Obi Toppin’s quick five points gave the Knicks another double-digit lead at the onset of the fourth quarter. But Mitchell refused to roll over and die, leading a furious Cavaliers’ rally. The Westchester native pumped nine of his 24 points in the final quarter but came up short just when it mattered.
It was a much-needed win for the Knicks, who improved to 26-23 and maintained a 1.5-game edge over rival Atlanta Hawks (24-24) for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Knicks will continue a brutal seven-game stretch with road games in Boston on Thursday and Brooklyn on Saturday.
Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo