This isn't the same team that lost 26 games in a row and 36 of 37. This isn't the team that forgot to show up on many nights, embarrassed themselves and couldn't wait to get home.
Maybe it was simply ending the long losing streak. Maybe it was growing tired of becoming a national punchline. Maybe Friday was a case of injecting some life following a big trade (even though the main component has yet to arrive). The solution doesn't matter -- the problem of not playing hard and not giving a good effort seems to have been solved.
The Cavs have won three of five since they dropped 26 in a row. Friday they took advantage of a Knicks team still learning how to play together. There is zero chemistry right now between Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. Both put up big numbers on Friday, but they have no flow and no ability to play together. The game wouldn't even have been this close had it not been for Chauncey Billups' monster fourth quarter (20 points).
But the Knicks problems aren't what allowed the Cavs to grab 19 offensive rebounds and outrebound the Knicks 62-42. The Cavs outscored the Knicks in second-chance points 26-13, which ultimately was the difference in the game.
J.J. Hickson saw Stoudemire on the other end of the court and decided to show up, then said afterwards the big games bring out the best in him. That's all well and good, but he still needs to remember to at least show up for all the rest.
The Cavs are improving. The addition of Baron Davis will only expedite that process. Scott has done his best work in this league with elite point guards. I don't think Davis is in that class anymore, but Scott was adamant today that when Davis is healthy and motivated, there aren't but maybe three or four point guards in the league who are better. The problem is getting Davis healthy and motivated. Scott believes he can.
For now, the Cavs can celebrate what no doubt was a big win for them. Beating a team that is a lock for the playoffs -- and beating them soundly -- shows there is hope despite a roster with five rookies and an Alonzo Gee (who might as well be classified as a rookie).
The defense is coming, the hustle is there and more help is on the way in forms of Davis and draft picks. There might be hope for this team yet.
Antawn Jamison 28 points, 13 rebounds
J.J. Hickson 24 points, 15 rebounds
Ramon Sessions 22 points, eight rebounds, four assists
Anthony Parker 16 points, five rebounds
Amar'e Stoudemire 31 points, 11 rebounds
Carmelo Anthony 27 points, 8 rebounds (2 points in fourth quarter)
Chauncey Billups 26 points, eight assists (20 points in fourth quarter)
Daniel Gibson hit a clutch 3-pointer to put the Cavs up 110-105 in the final minute.
The Cavs grabbed 19 offensive rebounds and outrebounded the Knicks 62-42.
They said it
"Guys are really starting to buy in, especially defensively. We’ve gotten much better at that end of the floor and we’re going to keep trying to improve there." -- Cavs coach Byron Scott
The Cavs (11-47) host the Philadelphia 76ers (29-29) at 5 p.m. on Sunday.