A valuable spot in the draft lottery may be at stake when the Cavaliers host the Knicks in a battle of teams engaged in the "race" for the No. 1 draft pick in June.
Both teams, appropriately enough, will enter Monday mired in the midst of epic skids. The Knicks tied a franchise record by suffering their 16th straight loss Saturday, when they fell 104-99 to the visiting Toronto Raptors. New York also suffered 16 straight losses during the 2014-15 season.
The Cavaliers' losing streak hit four games Saturday, when they were beaten 105-90 by the host Indiana Pacers.
A loss by the Knicks on Monday would give them the 34th losing streak of at least 17 games in NBA history and the longest losing streak since the Memphis Grizzlies dropped 19 in a row last season. New York has lost 24 of 25 and 29 of its last 31 games.
And while the Knicks' goals have been obvious since the start of the season -- and grew even more so following the blockbuster trade of Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas on Jan. 31 that emptied the roster of high-end NBA talent and cleared plenty of cap space for an offseason pursuit of a superstar or two -- first-year head coach David Fizdale said the constant losing will not wear on his squad.
"We understand what this year is," Fizdale said Saturday night. "Whatever happens to us this year will not make us crack or waver. We're just going to keep chopping and keep going after it. I've got really high-character people in that locker room that are rooting for each other and working hard for each other. So I don't see any of this cracking our spirit."
A history-avoiding win on Monday night would certainly raise the spirits in the Knicks' locker room, as well as shuffle the order of the three teams in position to have the best chance at "winning" the opportunity to draft Duke freshman star Zion Williamson.
Entering Sunday, New York (10-45) had the worst record in the NBA, a half-game worse than the Cavaliers (11-45) and a game worse than the Phoenix Suns (11-46), who were scheduled to put their 13-game losing streak on the line Sunday night against the Sacramento Kings.
The three worst teams in the NBA will have equal odds of winning the lottery, which is scheduled for May 14. The only other team besides the Knicks, Cavaliers and Suns within shouting distance of the bottom three is the Chicago Bulls, who have a 13-43 record.
The Cavaliers have been a bit better lately than the Knicks and Suns, albeit only incrementally so. Cleveland has dropped 22 of its last 25 dating back to Dec. 19, a stretch that includes a 12-game losing streak as well as back-to-back wins over the Bulls and Washington Wizards on Jan. 27-29.
Defense has been an issue for the Cavaliers, who have allowed at least 100 points in 12 straight games and 23 of their last 25.
"Keep growing defensively," Cavaliers power forward Larry Nance Jr. said Saturday night. "I'm going to keep preaching that, because you can find offense. You can find offense in the offseason. We're not worried about that. Defense is the thing that's got to be there every single night, every single practice, every single game. So that's what I'm going to keep harping on."
Kevin Love recently returned from toe surgery and his status hasn't been determined.
--Field Level Media