A long, hard road later, the New York Knicks rolled past the Cleveland Cavaliers and into the second round of the NBA playoffs. Jalen Brunson’s 23 points led in a 106-95 victory against a hapless Cavs offense that got too desperate too quickly.
Dominant rebounding. Stopping every Cavs run before it could ever really get going. New York basketball and its signature grit, and the Knicks put on a master class. The Miami Heat await.
Boards, boards, and more boards. Cleveland was a weak rebounding team all year despite having the league’s top defense. The Knicks made it their mission to prove that and dominated the glass throughout the series. Mitchell Robinson made mincemeat out of both Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, pulling down 18 rebounds in Game 5. Even more impressive is 11 came on the offensive glass.
New York had 48 rebounds to Cleveland’s 30, and 17 to their four on offense. Robinson averaged 9.8 boards in the series and Josh Hart, a guard listed at 6-foot-4, posted 7.8. This team knows how to dominate the paint and their next opponent will have their hands full trying to stop the Knicks.
The Cavaliers were the old Knicks. Cleveland overachieved to 51 wins all season long and everyone kind of knew it. It was exposed in the playoffs, and badly. The Cavs’ youth and inexperience wasn’t anything Donovan Mitchell could fix, nor was the team’s lack of depth.
It didn’t help Mobley and Allen were stopped in their tracks, and only Darius Garland performed consistently. In a way, Cleveland was the Knicks of two years ago against Atlanta. Young, inexperienced, and playing a game that’s fairly easy to stop.
The good news for the Cavs is there’s nowhere for the team to go but up, especially with Mitchell leading the way.
Teamwork leads the way. Robinson was the hands-down player of the game but it really could have gone to one of many. Game 5 was a true team effort by the Knicks. It looks even better considering Julius Randle re-injured his ankle and watched the second half in street clothes.
Josh Hart had 12 rebounds. Immanuel Quickley finally found his shot and added 19 points. Obi Toppin had 12 important ones filling in for an injured Randle. It was a complete team effort where everyone stayed focused and didn’t let up on defense once.
They’ve earned this short rest before the East Semis.
SERIES MVP: RJ Barrett. He didn’t score effectively in the first two games but still played great defense in Game 1. He was a different beast in Games 3-5, averaging 22 points on nearly 56% shooting and 17.4 for the series. It was the production the Knicks needed out of him, especially with Randle’s ankle not fully healthy.