Quicken Loans Arena hosted a raft of big playoff games across the past four years. Now it will stage the “Zion Bowl’’ when the Knicks invade Cleveland for Monday’s encounter between the teams with two of the NBA’s worst records.
The Knicks, at 10-45, have been dead last for two weeks, but a victory Monday would vault them past the 11-45 Cavaliers and the 11-47 Suns and out of the NBA’s basement.
Monday’s “Zion Bowl” can also be a landmark moment for the Knicks’ franchise. One more loss will extend the losing streak to 17 games — and give David Fizdale’s tank machine sole possession of the longest losing streak in team annals.
The Knicks tied the franchise’s worst losing streak at 16 on Saturday in a 104-99 loss to Toronto, after which Knicks coach David Fizdale seemed uplifted despite it being their 29th loss in 31 games. The Knicks, who haven’t won since beating the LeBron James-less Lakers on Jan. 4 in Los Angeles, have a shot of setting the worst record in their history — held by the 2014-15 Derek Fisher Knicks at 17-65.
Indeed, the close showing in which they held Toronto to 38 percent shooting was one of the top five moral victories this season.
“Whatever happens to us this year won’t make us crack or waver,’’ Fizdale said when asked if he’s concerned about the pile of defeats. “We’re going to keep chopping. I don’t see a crack in our spirit. We have a lot of character in the locker room.’’
The race for finishing at the NBA’s very bottom is not as compelling as in the past. In commissioner Adam Silver’s new lottery overhaul to prevent tanking, the worst three records share the same odds (14 percent) of winning the rights to the top pick, which is expected to be Duke’s 6-foot-7, 280-pound Mack Truck, Zion Williamson.
However, the team with the worst record has one benefit — it can’t fall beyond the fifth pick. Some NBA scouts consider this a weak draft after the top five picks.
The LeBron James-less Cavaliers have lost four straight, but are 2-8 in the past 10 games. Plus their star, Kevin Love, just returned from a toe injury after missing 50 games. Rookie point guard Collin Sexton, who is averaging 14.8 points on 40.9 percent shooting, could have something to prove after getting passed over as an injury replacement in the Rising Stars Challenge. Kevin Knox got the nod.
The Knicks were beaten in December in their last appearance in Cleveland, 113-106, and have since lost their leading scorer, Tim Hardaway Jr., in the Kristaps Porzingis trade 11 days ago. Point guard Dennis Smith Jr. has become their No. 1 option and the Knicks are expected to add a shooting-guard piece Monday in NBA sharpshooter John Jenkins, who will be signed to a 10-day contract.
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