When the Knicks took the floor at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night, they faced a bracing headwind.
At the high point of their season after a win at Miami, they had returned home early Wednesday to discover that Derrick Rose, a fulcrum of their offense, would be sidelined by an injury. And waiting for them were the Cleveland Cavaliers, the best team in the Eastern Conference and the defending N.B.A. champions.
If any team was inclined to show no mercy to the Knicks, it was the Cavaliers. LeBron James entered the game with a high-profile grievance against Phil Jackson, the Knicks’ president, and a history of paying off slights. James’s penchant for turning games in New York into spectacles only added to the Knicks’ concerns.
It was a setup for a disastrous night, and it played out that way for the Knicks. The game was effectively out of reach by the third quarter as the Cavaliers…