CLEVELAND — On the bright side, the Knicks took the resurgent Cavaliers down to the wire.
On the dim side, it was another wildly erratic night for Julius Randle, who was outplayed by Cavaliers veteran Kevin Love and rookie Evan Mobley.
In failing a big test in Northeast Ohio against the resurgent Cavaliers, the Knicks fell apart in the third quarter, rallied big in the fourth behind RJ Barrett but dropped a 95-93 decision Monday at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.
Barrett, after a slow start, came on in the fourth quarter but missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer with four seconds left.
“I didn’t think we got what we wanted,’’ Tom Thibodeau said of Barrett’s miss. “We wanted to attack in the open floor. He had been going downhill pretty good. I thought it would have been a good opportunity for him. We might have settled for that.’’
Barrett finished with 24 points after a big fourth quarter but couldn’t close out the deal.
Randle struggled on both ends. He had one last chance to become a hero, taking an inbounds pass with 1.3 seconds left from Alec Burks, but fired a contested airball from 40 feet.
Randle finished with 18 points and four turnovers, going 6 of 17 from the field, and walked off angrily. Love wound up with 20 points.
Cleveland’s All-Star-in-the-making, point guard Darius Garland, hit the big shot, a step-back 3 in the final minute after faking out Barrett. Garland scored 13 points with 12 assists.
The Knicks were up 59-55 early in the third when the Cavaliers tore them up with a 21-3 run with Love punishing them with three 3-pointers, left wide open by a seemingly tired Randle. The Cavs led 76-62.
The Knicks played the Cavaliers even for the first half but ran out of steam in the second night of a back-to-back set to drop to 23-25 and see their one-game winning streak snapped.
Cam Reddish got his first DNP-CD as a Knick in the loss.
During the Knicks’ third-quarter collapse, Randle threw an interception and two possessions later, they committed a 24-seond violation.
When Randle came out, the Knicks closed to 76-69 as Quentin Grimes drilled two straight 3-pointers and had a strong night.