The New York Knicks took Game 1 of their first-round matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers on the road. Their bench, rebounding and some excellent play down the stretch from Jalen Brunson all came together to propel them over a tough and gritty Cavs team.
The New York Knicks (1-0) defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers (0-1) 101-97 in Game One of their first-round NBA playoff series. For New York, Jalen Brunson scored 27 points, grabbed two rebounds, and dished out two assists, while Julius Randle tallied 19 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists. For Cleveland, Donovan Mitchell scored 38 points and added five rebounds and eight assists, while Darius Garland scored 17 points and knocked down two three-pointers. With the win, the Knicks lead the series 1-0.
After being out for the last few games of the regular season due to a sprained ankle, Knicks forward Julius Randle was announced as a starter ahead of tip-off for Game 1, giving the Knicks the extra boost needed to come away with a much-needed road victory. Both he and Jalen Brunson, the two leaders for New York throughout the season, got the Knicks started on the offensive end. Brunson started off the action with an attempted layup which got him to the foul line to get the scoring going for New York in the first quarter. Randle also hit a three soon after, bringing a sigh of relief to Knicks fans abound.
But, once Cleveland settled in on offense after some poor defensive possessions by the Knicks. The pressure from Cleveland’s defense, led by Evan Mobley, forced New York into some bad shots and allowed Cleveland to gain some stability. Donovan Mitchell had some good looks early, with Darius Garland starting off early with some creative drives to the lane. Once the Knicks shuffled the lineup, sticking Randle with bench pieces like Josh Hart and Isaiah Hartenstein stepped on the floor again to close out the quarter, the Knicks looked much more coherent on both ends of the floor. Despite a chaotic first, the Knicks finished up six in Cleveland.
The second quarter started with the Knicks getting active, with Hartenstein finishing at the rim with few tough offensive rebounds behind them with Brunson and Randle continuing to get more comfortable on offense. On the other side, the Cavaliers were carried by Donovan Mitchell. Despite the stars working well on both sides, the game was something out of 1997, as the defense was the name of the game for both teams. When the bench was entirely on the floor without Randle or Brunson, though, they looked a bit lost as they struggled to contain a late-period offensive explosion from Mitchell and keep consistent on offense. Despite those lapses, they remained in control by the end of the first half and up five through two.
As the second half opened, the Cavaliers continued to attack New York’s defense, while the Knicks were looking to continue the success from the first half – clamp down on defense, while allowing Brunson and Randle to carry their offense. It turned out that rebounding was New York’s best friend to the quarter. Both Josh Hart and Mitchell Robinson were active on the glass, allowing New York to gain several extra offensive possessions with their offensive rebounding. At one point, the Knicks had four extra possessions, thanks to offensive rebounds by Mitchell Robinson, Josh Hart and RJ Barrett in one trip on the offensive side of the ball.
Combing New York’s offensive rebounding with Jalen Brunson’s offense and the Knicks began to extend their lead on Cleveland. Brunson, percolating in the third quarter, got a few excellent looks with Cedi Osman defending him. Between the turnaround jumper, the step-back jumper and some clean looks in the middle of the floor, Brunson’s offensive explosion came at an important time, allowing the Knicks to push the lead to near double-digits. The Knicks ended the quarter still up with a contentious fourth quarter on the horizon.
I ♥️ JOSH HART pic.twitter.com/mWxr6XQFKt
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) April 16, 2023
Some momentum did shift in Cleveland’s favor, though, when Randle hit Isaac Okoro in the face on a drive, and time was stopped to ensure it was not a technical foul. Once play began again, the Knicks were back in control thanks to excellent play from Hart and rebounding galore.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Knicks almost capitulated. Two costly turnovers by New York got Cleveland back to within two points with just two minutes to go, and some sloppy defense led to the Cavaliers regaining the lead by one. Sporting an injured ankle, Josh Hart made one of the biggest shots of the game, a clean three-pointer to push New York’s lead to two points. They gained even more separation off a layup from Brunson, which gained them a four-point lead. With just seconds to go, Brunson dribbled the ball out and missed a shot, but a huge rebound by Randle kept New York alive. Cleveland had to foul Quentin Grimes to try and keep the game within reach. Grimes hit both, clinching game one on the road.
Brunson was New York’s leading scorer with 27 points, while also collecting two assists, two rebounds, and two steals. Randle had 19 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Barrett had seven points, six assists, four steals, and four rebounds, while Robinson had six points, eight rebounds, and two steals. Aside from his two clutch free throws, Grimes had five points, five rebounds, an assist, and a block. Hart was huge off the bench for the Knicks, finishing up with 17 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, and a steal. Obi Toppin had nine points, four rebounds, and an assist while Hartenstein had eight points and five rebounds. Immanuel Quickley had a silent night with three points, three rebounds, and two assists.
Game 2 tips off in Cleveland on Tuesday at 7:30 pm.