Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Game 3 of the Knicks and Cavaliers’ first-round playoff series was exactly what it needed to be. New York defended its home court in a dominant 99-76 win after faltering in Game 2.

Speaking of defense, the Knicks made some history. Game 3’s win marked the first time all season an NBA team had scored less than 80 points in a game. Cleveland had no answers on offense and the Knicks overcame an ugly start to take a 2-1 series edge on the Cavs.

Some takeaways:

Barrett Barrage. There’s no way the Knicks win Game 3 without RJ Barrett’s strong effort. The young wing’s offense finally arrived as he scored 19 points on 8 of 12 shooting. Barrett also added eight rebounds and three triples.

Granted, Barrett still finds ways to be effective for New York when his shots aren’t falling. His defense on Darius Garland in Game 1 was a big reason the Knicks won the series opener. But the team is just that much better when he’s making his baskets alongside Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson. Here’s hoping Game 3 is the start of Barrett’s next hot streak.

Lost Cavaliers. Whatever Cleveland had going for it in Game 2 didn’t show up in Game 3. The Cavs shot 38.8% from the field on the night and a paltry 21.2% from three. No player really got into a rhythm on offense and Garland had an awful evening, shooting 4 of 21 on the night with just ten points. Cleveland also committed a ghastly 20 turnovers compared to just 14 by New York.

It just shows that as good as the Cavaliers were this year, they’re still a young team learning to play together. They’re really not too different from the Knicks of two years ago.

Garden of EdenAbove all else, tonight was a reminder of just how great a place Madison Square Garden is for playoff basketball. The New York faithful showed up and brought their fiery energy to a must-win game for the Knicks. Best of all is they get to do it all over again in Game 4 on Sunday.

Everything was in sync for the team tonight. Brunson led the way with 21 points and six assists even though the night really belonged to Barrett. Randle managed a +15 on the night despite shooting 3 of 15 with just 11 points and eight rebounds. This is the brand of New York Knicks basketball fans have craved for nigh on two decades.

And if Game 3 was any indication, this Knicks team is on a mission the rest of the series.

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.