A well-balanced Knicks attack helped take down Donovan Mitchell’s Cavaliers in the first rematch of last year’s first-round series.

After a couple of nights off following a defeat against the Pelicans, the Knicks faced off against the Cavs in Cleveland in the first game of a home and home back-to-back. The Knicks knocked off the Cavs in a 109-91 victory in what’s starting to become somewhat of a rivalry following last season’s playoff series. The Cavs were handed in this first meeting without starters Jarrett Allen and Darius Garland. 

After a brutal game against New Orleans, Jalen Brunson got off to a blistering start in Cleveland, knocking his first four shots from the field. The Knicks looked ready to take off early after quickly establishing an 8-point midway through the first quarter but a couple of timely Cavalier three-pointers tempered that. The Cavs briefly held the lead but the Knicks bench entered the game and calmed things down and threw Cleveland out of whack forcing a couple of turnovers, closing out the quarter with a 28-24 lead. 

At the start of the second period, the Knicks came out aggressive. New York quickly widened their lead to 10 points behind RJ Barrett and the reserves but the Cavs would not go away as Donovan Mitchell took over and sliced into the lead. Mitchell’s 14-point outburst in the period would not be enough as the Knicks kept pace, allowing them to hold on to their lead. The Knicks would go into the half leading 58-52. Despite missing some opportunities to put the Cavs away early in the first half thanks to not being able to contain Donovan Mitchell the Knicks looked more balanced in the first two quarters of this game than they have at any point this season so far. Barrett, Brunson, and Randle were all in double figures with 15, 11, and 12 points respectively and there were contributions up and down the bench in different areas. 

At the start of the second, the Knicks continued to let the Cavs hang around despite them being short-handed. The theme of the night continued as the Knicks would incrementally grow the lead and resort to trading buckets. As made shots became a rarity in the third quarter the Knicks methodically expanded their advantage resorting to free throws in the middle of a 13-1 run that took them up to a 16-point advantage. Even though the Knicks found it hard to score they were also not letting Cleveland score, at one point holding them to no points in an over five-minute span. The Knicks were able to pacify Donovan Mitchell’s scoring and exploit the rest of the Cavs with shutdown defense. New York would open up an 18-point lead to end the third period taking an 86-68 lead into the final quarter. 

Two minutes into the 4th quarter the Cavs weren’t ready to bow out just yet, scoring five straight points and cutting the Knicks down to 13, resulting in an irated Tom Thibodeau timeout. The Knicks responded to their head coach behind Immanuel Quickley hitting a couple of timely three-pointers to restore their 18-point advantage. They would put the Cavs away for good as Quickley continued his fourth-quarter assault. 

Five Knicks scored in double figures in a well-balanced attack. Julius Randle had his best game scoring thus far with 19 points to go along with another 10 rebounds. Jalen Brunson also ended the night with 19 points. RJ Barrett finished with 16 points after scoring just one point in a quiet second half. Immanuel Quickley sealed the deal for the Knicks finishing the night with 18 points including 11 in the fourth quarter. Isaiah Hartenstien was stellar off the bench with 13 points and 7 rebounds. 

The Knicks and the Cavs are right back at it tomorrow night in the second leg of their back-to-back this time from MSG, tip-off is 7:30 pm. 

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