Brunson, Knicks’ depth prove too much for Cavaliers in Game 1
The Cavaliers entered the playoffs with four players who had been an All-Star in the last two years but with serious questions about who would be the fifth Beatle and depth overall.
That showed up in Game 1 against the Knicks — Cleveland’s players 5-9 scored just 20 points on 5-of-19 shooting (26.3%). New York outscored Cleveland in the paint and the Knicks absolutely outworked them on the offensive glass — including key offensive rebounds/tips by Julius Randle and Isaiah Hartenstein in the final :45 seconds of the game.
Then there was Jalen Brunson, who was everything in Game 1 he was all season — the steadying influence and the guy who got buckets when it was needed (like the second half). He finished with 27 points — 21 in the second half — to lead the Knicks.
The Knicks held off a late charge by the Cavaliers to win Game 1, 101-97, and take a 1-0 lead in the series. Game 2 is Tuesday in Cleveland.
The Cavaliers are not going to be able to ask more out of Donovan Mitchell, who had 38 points and was making the hustle plays the Cavaliers needed more of. Jarrett Allen added 14 points and 14 rebounds, while Darius Garland scored 17.
After that, things were rough. Evan Mobley had nine points on 13 shots and the Knicks gave the young star good looks in his first playoff game, but they were not falling. Isaac Okoro and Caris LeVert combined to go 0-of-7 from 3, which is why Cedi Osman closed the game (and played well).
The Knicks simply had more depth. In his first game back after missing five with a sprained ankle, Randle looked spry and scored 19 points with 10 rebounds. Josh Hart came off the bench and showed why he’s a Knicks’ fan favorite with 17 points.
New York first took the lead with a 10-0 run in the first quarter and held that lead most of the game (although it rarely climbed to double digits) until a late push by the Cavaliers in the fourth. This is where the depth of the Knicks seemed to win out. Cavs coach JB Bickerstaff had six players he could trust and leaned hard into his starters, while the Knicks Thibodeau — not a guy known for trusting his depth — was able to go nine deep and get positive contributions from players like Obi Toppin, which kept legs fresher for the end of the game.
Those fresher Knicks legs grabbed 17 offensive rebounds, one of the game’s key turning points.
The Cavaliers are going to have to turn around those hustle stats and dominate the paint with their size on Tuesday, they can’t afford to go down 0-2 in this series.