CLEVELAND - The New York Knicks’ franchise-record 17th straight loss might have been the toughest one to take.
The Knicks erased a 17-point deficit in the second half and had several chances to take the lead or tie the game in the final minute before falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers 107-104 on Monday night.
“It’s incredibly hard,” said guard Dennis Smith Jr. “No one wants to lose, especially 17 in a row. Tonight would’ve been major for us if we’d have pulled it out.”
Collin Sexton, who led Cleveland with 20 points, hit two free throws with 17 seconds remaining to put the Cavaliers up by three.
John Jenkins missed a 3-pointer from the right corner, but Smith grabbed the rebound and dribbled to the left corner. He also missed a 3-pointer and Larry Nance Jr. tapped the rebound to midcourt as time ran out.
Luke Kornet, who hit a pair of 3-pointers down the stretch, missed a wide-open 3 with 21 seconds remaining that would have put the Knicks ahead.
“When you’ve got a chance at the end, if you don’t win, it hurts,” coach David Fizdale said. “We had a shot — actually two — and we got the look we wanted. It just didn’t go down. And before that, we got a real good look from one of our best shooters in Kornet.”
Nance had 15 points and 16 rebounds, while Jordan Clarkson scored 15 points. Kevin Love had 14 points and nine rebounds in his second game since returning from foot surgery. The All-Star forward played 16 minutes, all in the first half. Love was 4 of 10 from the field, including two 3-pointers, and had nine rebounds.
Love played Friday against Washington after missing 50 games. He scored four points in six first-quarter minutes.
“I felt like the last game I wasn’t able to open up my lungs like I was tonight,” Love said. “It felt pretty good to get out there and feel like I got in some sort of rhythm.”
Love said he thinks he’ll play Wednesday against Brooklyn in Cleveland’s final game before the All-Star break.
“He’s doing some things that we’ve really missed over his absence,” coach Larry Drew said. “You can put him in the post and he can manufacture a shot and get to the free throw line. He moves out to the 3 against a bigger guy. He looks good. He’s moving very well.”
Kadeem Allen scored a career-high 25 points for the Knicks. New York (10-46) has the worst record in the league, and has lost 25 of 26 and 30 of its last 32 games.
Cleveland (12-45) broke a four-game losing streak.
Kevin Knox scored 13 points while DeAndre Jordan had 12 points and 10 rebounds for New York.
Both teams are in the running for a prime spot in the draft lottery, which takes place May 14. The three worst teams in the league will have a 14 percent chance of getting the first pick in the draft and a shot at grabbing Duke center Zion Williamson.
Phoenix (11-47) and Chicago (13-44) are also possibilities for a top-three pick.
Thunder 120, Trail Blazers 111
In Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook set an NBA record with his 10th straight triple-double, Paul George scored 47 points, and the Thunder beat Portland.
Westbrook broke a tie with Wilt Chamberlain, who had nine straight triple-doubles in 1968, by finishing with 21 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists. He clinched the record on an assist to George for a 3-pointer with 3:52 remaining in the fourth quarter. It was his 23rd triple-double of the season and the 127th of his career.
George had 12 rebounds and 10 assists for the third triple-double of his career. Rookie Deonte Burton had a career-high 18 points and Raymond Felton added a season-high 15 for the Thunder.
Damian Lillard scored 31 points and Jake Layman added 17 for the Blazers.
Rockets 120, Mavericks 104
In Houston, James Harden scored 31 points for his 30th straight 30-point game despite dealing with a shoulder injury, leading the Rockets over Dallas.
Harden, who had eight rebounds and seven assists, seemed to be a bit slowed early by the strained left shoulder that he injured on Saturday against Oklahoma City, making just one of his first seven shots. But he warmed up after that and finished 9 of 23, capped by his sixth 3-pointer with less than a minute left to put him over 30 and keep the streak going. Fans chanted “MVP! MVP!” after he sunk the step back over Dorian Finney-Smith.
He’s now just one game from tying Wilt Chamberlain for the second-longest streak of 30-point games in NBA history. Chamberlain also holds the top 30-point game streak with 65 in a row.
Luka Doncic had 21 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists for the Mavericks, who lost for the first time this season to Houston after winning the first two meetings.
In Other Games
Raptors 127, Nets 125
Bucks 112, Bulls 99
Nuggets 103, Heat 87
Pistons 121, Wizards 112
Pacers 99, Hornets 90
Timberwolves 130, Clippers 120