CLEVELAND — What should a team do when it blows an 18-point lead before halftime? Build a 19-point lead in the second half.
That’s what Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers did Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena en route to a 109-94 victory over the hapless New York Knicks, who have lost 11 of their last 13 games.
Irving was terrific all night, scoring 37 points — 22 came in the second half — and adding 11 assists. He was 14-for-23 from the field overall, 4-for-7 on 3-pointers and 5-for-6 from the line in 36 minutes.
The third-year pro also committed just one turnover while ending a streak of eight straight games where he shot less than 50 percent from the field.
“I was never worried about him shooting,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said of Irving, who began the night hitting a career-low .394 from the field. “For me, it never came up one time.
“I told him, I told you guys (the media), he could go 0-for-30. I don’t care. Just stay aggressive.”
Except for a lull late in the first period and for most of the second, when they blew all of an 18-point lead before going up three at intermission, the Cavs (8-13) did that as a team while winning their fourth straight at The Q and for the fourth time in their last five games overall.
“It seems like we’re getting more resilient,” Brown said. “The big test for us will be on the road (where the Cavs are 1-10).”
In the friendly confines of The Q, where it is 7-3, Cleveland shot a season-high .568 from the field (42-for-74), made 9-of-19 3-pointers and was 16-for-22 from the line, with 16 of its charity tosses coming in the first quarter.
The jack-it-up, play-no-defense Knicks (5-15) were 10-for-31 from behind the arc and just 4-for-5 from the line.
“The exciting part about it is we’ve got a lot of room for growth on both ends of the floor, especially offensively,” Brown said.
Other than Irving’s terrific play, the key for the Cavs was limiting their turnovers. After committing 10 that led to 22 New York points over the first two quarters, they committed five that led to only five points in the second half.
“We talked to our guys at halftime about turnovers,” Brown said. “We felt if we didn’t turn the ball over and moved it and spaced it, we’d get some good looks, especially with Kyrie shooting it the way he was tonight.”
Up one early in the third, Cleveland took over the game with an 8-0 run. It featured a monster Tristan Thompson follow-up slam, an Irving pull-up, a Thompson dunk off an assist from C.J. Miles and another Irving pull-up.
Until that point, a frustrated Thompson (12 points, 9 rebounds) had just four points and three rebounds.
“I did take it out on the rim,” the third-year pro said of his resounding dunk to start the spurt. “Sorry, rim.”
Said Brown: “It’s a clip we may show (at practice today) just to get Tristan excited.”
That was the beginning of the end for the Knicks, who trailed by 18 points late in the third and by 19 early in the fourth, with Irving going 9-for-14 from the field over those two quarters.
“To me, it was just another game,” said Irving, who had 41 points against the Knicks last season. “No matter the opponent, I was going to come out aggressive.”
Toss in 17 points off the bench from Jarrett Jack and 10 points from Miles and it was a solid all-around night for the Cavs.
“Whenever you can get big-time plays like my dunk and Kyrie making all those threes, it definitely gets us going again,” Thompson said. “It gets the crowd back into it and kind of gives us some extra life.”
The Knicks, whose sorry performance has coach Mike Woodson on an even hotter hot seat, were coming off a 41-point home loss to Boston on Sunday, causing Brown to worry they might come out like a “wounded animal.”
Instead, the Knicks came out like road kill, falling behind 27-9 with 2:16 left in the first quarter before showing their only signs of life in the second period.
Carmelo Anthony led New York with 29 points and eight rebounds, while Amar’e Stoudemire had 15 points off the bench and J.R. Smith added 14.
“We’re playing cool basketball right now,” Smith said. “It’s not working for us. We have to get our hands dirty and do what it takes to win.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @RickNoland.