After a hard-fought home victory on Wednesday night, the Randle-less Knicks head to Cleveland to face Mitchell and the Cavaliers. 

With every day that goes by, a Knicks-Cavs first-round matchup becomes more and more inevitable. Storylines have circulated all season about how the Knicks  made a poor decision by not nabbing the star guard. Tonight’s game will be the first step in putting this narrative to bed. Having faced Cleveland three times this season prior to this matchup, New York is aware that getting a victory will not be an easy task, especially without Julius Randle.

During the Knicks 101-92 victory over the Miami Heat on Wednesday, Randle landed awkwardly on his ankle, forcing him to sit out the remainder of the game. The day after the game, the New York Knicks PR team released this statement, clarifying what Randle’s timetable looks like:

This is a huge blow for the Knicks and Randle, an all-star who appeared in every single game up until this point. The timing is also unfortunate too, as it’s uncertain whether he’ll play Game 1 of the playoffs. At the very least, fans must be glad to hear that this is not a season-ending injury, especially after how painful it looked in the moment.

What’s interesting about this tweet is that he will be re-evaluated in two weeks, meaning that he could be out for even longer. Randle has not missed more than three games in any of his past seven seasons. This likely means that his approach will stay the same as he tries to recover as quickly as possible. Either way, losing a player that averages 25.1 points and 10.0 rebounds is brutal, and the Knicks must come up with answers quickly to have a chance against Cleveland tonight and potentially in the playoffs. Nonetheless, the Knicks will approach this with a “next man up” mentality once more as New York looks to finish the season off on a strong note.

Obi Toppin, what’s poppin?

Obi Toppin has been deserving of more minutes for a while now. While this is not the way fans wanted it to pan out, it seems to be what’s happening.  It’s unclear how Toppin will perform in this situation, especially since his role has been extremely limited, as he mostly resorts to corner threes when he’s given the opportunity to play. Regardless, he’s shown that he can put on a show when he’s given the minutes. Think back to this time last year when Obi cooked the Raptors for 42 points when Randle was hurt to finish off last season.

The Knicks likely won’t need to worry about Toppin’s offense, but his defense remains a concern. He’ll likely guard Evan Mobley tonight, which could pose as a major liability. Thankfully this is only a regular season matchup between the two teams, and the tape from this game will help Knick’s officials determine whether they should go with Toppin or someone else in the playoffs. New York can approach this in many ways, including moving  RJ Barrett or Josh Hart to the four spot.

Tonight, the Knicks will need to lean on Brunson, Barrett, Quickley, and even to an extent Obi Toppin to move past the Cavaliers and into the playoffs.

Tip-off is at 7:30 on MSG and MSGGO.

»Read: It’s Time for Tom Thibodeau to Add Miles McBride Back to the Rotation 

»Read: Lessons from the Knicks’ West Coast Trip

»Read: Three Keys to the Knicks’ Playoff Push