The Knicks, already without Amar’e Stoudemire and clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, learned earlier on Saturday that Lin would miss at least six weeks after surgery on a torn meniscus in his knee.
“You feel for your team mate. No one wants to see anyone go through surgery,” Knicks center Tyson Chandler told reporters.
“He had been playing so well and now to lose him to knee surgery is tough. We’ll be with him and we’ll hold the fort down until we get him back.”
Reserve J.R. Smith came off the bench and scored 12 of his game-high 20 points in the fourth quarter to finally allow the Knicks to pull away from the pesky Cavaliers, who kept the game within reach through the first three quarters before falling to their seventh consecutive loss.
“We need J.R. to play like that. For him to play like that, it gives us a boost, especially coming off the bench,” said Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony.
“Coming down the stretch, we need him to play like that.”
Cleveland led briefly early in the game before the Knicks turned the momentum in their favor with 14 straight points over a five minute stretch in the first quarter to build a 12-point cushion.
Cleveland trimmed the lead to as few as two points on two occasions but were unable to overtake New York before fading down the stretch.
Anthony added 19 points for New York (27-26) and Chandler scored 14 points and had 12 rebounds. The Cavaliers, who were without Kyrie Irving, were led by Antawn Jamison’s 13 points.
“I thought we played hard,” Cavaliers coach Byron Scott said. “We didn’t know until we sat down and talked to Kyrie that he wasn’t going to play, and the players didn’t know that, but I thought they came out and gave a heck of an effort
“Starting the fourth quarter, down by five, I thought we did a pretty good job, especially on the defensive end. We just turned the ball over way too many times tonight.”
(Reporting by Mike Mouat in Windsor, Ontario, editing by Nick Mulvenney. To query or comment on this story email )