Are the Knicks Ready to Pounce in New York?
ARE THE KNICKS READY TO POUNCE IN NEW YORK – The Eastern Conference NBA bracket has been pretty cut and dry except for two series: The Milwaukee Bucks against the Miami Heat and the New York Knicks facing the Cleveland Cavaliers.
For this one, let’s shift our focus to the Knicks-Cavs, with the series tied at one game apiece entering Friday’s pivotal Game 3.
How We Got Here
When this matchup was determined, it was a coin flip as to who would win and move on to the play the 1-8 winner. Through two games, it has been exactly that.
The Cavs lost Game 1 in Cleveland, 101-97. Donovan Mitchell did all he could with 38 points and 8 assists, but the rest of the Cavs starters combined for 45 points in a very lackluster performance.
The Cavs bench also was nowhere to be found, finishing with 14 points and not providing much spark for JB Bickerstaff’s team.
The Knicks saw Jalen Brunson explode in his team playoff debut, and he had 27 points on 11-24 from the field. Julius Randle struggled with a 7-20 clip and 3-10 from three-point land, but he still managed a 19-point, 10-rebound double-double.
Josh Hart gave the Knicks what they needed off the bench with 17 points and 10 boards, and Quentin Grimes sealed the deal with two late free throws in the closing seconds.
Game 2 was nearly the complete opposite outcome. The Cavs won 107-90, and this time it was Darius Garland who led Cleveland with 32 points and 7 assists, including six three-pointers. Caris LeVert gave Cleveland a spark off the bench with 24 points, and that’s what is needed if this team wants to make a run.
The Knicks saw Julius Randle score 22 on 8-20 from the field, but Jalen Brunson shot just 5-17 from the field with 20 points and just 1-8 from downtown. Hart’s offensive performance was missing, but Sixth Man of the Year candidate Immanuel Quickley scored 12 points off the bench.
The Cavs had more assists, blocks, and rebounds while shooting better from the field in Game 2. However, the Knicks had more steals, rebounds, and a better free-throw percentage in Game 1.
What Lies Ahead
The Knicks got some good injury news regarding Randle, who entered the playoffs nursing an injury and then took a hard fall in Game 2. But all signs are trending in the right direction for Randle and the rest of the Knicks, and they now move the series back to Madison Square Garden.
Julius Randle took a hard foul late in the game. Concern would be
—Possible tailbone contusion
—Will need to rule out fracture with X-ray pic.twitter.com/euNj4VYFxt
— Dr. Evan Jeffries, DPT (@GameInjuryDoc) April 19, 2023
The Cavs didn’t need to lean on Mitchell as much in Game 2, thanks to a strong outing from LeVert and Garland, and those two will be instrumental going forward. If not, it all falls on Mitchell’s shoulders, and it’s only a matter of time before the All-Star has an off-night from the field.
The Knicks did exactly what they had to do – split the series in Cleveland. Now, they go to Madison Square Garden for Games 3 and 4, so they are in a prime position to return to Ohio with a 3-1 series lead.
Through the first two games, the combined score is 204-191 in favor of the Knicks, and both teams have already undergone an off-night from the field.
Initially, I had this series going seven games with the Cavs coming out on top, and it’s looking more and more like this series goes the distance. The Cavs walk into New York and split the two games, sending it back to Cleveland for Game 5. The Cavs take Game 5, lose Game 6, and win a thrilling Game 7 in a fantastic back-and-forth battle as Donovan Mitchell plays hero.