Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks and Cavaliers turned in another strong, physical effort in Game 2 of their playoff series. Lots of contact, lots of movement, lots of no-calls.

The difference this time around, however, was that Cleveland proved the better team in a 107-90 blowout win. They communicated better on both sides of the court, notching 26 assists to New York’s 16. It didn’t help that the Knicks also shot just 36.7% from the field for the game, and the series heads back to New York tied 2-2.

Some takeaways:

Darius dominates. Darius Garland was a non-factor in the second half of Game 1. In Game 2, he was the engine driving Cleveland’s scoring offense, dropping 32 points and seven assists. Garland drilled six three-pointers as the Cavaliers shot 42.4% from long range on the evening.

He was also helped by his teammate Donovan “Spida” Mitchell turning point guard for the evening. After a 38-point night in Game 1, Mitchell shifted his focus to passing and added 13 assists to go with 17 points. This isn’t entirely new, as both Mitchell and Garland shared point guard duties all season long.

But with the series now tied and a loud Madison Square Garden crowd waiting, the Knicks must play better defense against both stars in Game 3.

Murphy’s Law. Let’s be clear. New York took Game 1 in such a way that it was pretty obvious Cleveland would strike back in Game 2. Not to mention that winning two consecutive road playoff games is incredibly hard.

What wasn’t expected was just how poorly the Knicks would play. General shooting woes aside, they also made just over 24% of their threes. They only out-performed the Cavs in two major stats: offensive rebounds and steals.

Again, it’s hard to win two straight road playoff games. It’s even harder to repeat a performance as bad as the Knicks’ in Game 2.

Vanishing Knicks. Losing a chippy Game 2 doesn’t mean the Knicks shouldn’t be concerned heading into Game 3. Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle have performed well but finding that consistent third scorer has proven a struggle thus far. RJ Barrett’s shooting struggles continue and Immanuel Quickley was also a non-factor despite a better showing with 12 points in Game 2.

The Knicks also really need Quentin Grimes’ offense to resurface. He finished in double figures in nine straight games to end the regular season. The long wing can also be deadly from three when his shot is falling.

We’ve seen this happen in countless NBA postseasons. One player vanishing in the playoffs can sometimes be enough to derail a team’s prospects. The Knicks have worked too hard and come too far to suffer another early exit. A better team effort must define Game 3.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.