The New York Knicks kept their slim hopes for homecourt in the first round alive with a 130-116 win in Cleveland that at least for one night stopped the Cavaliers from clinching the fourth seed themselves. In the Knicks’ first game this season without Julius Randle, they may have sent a message to the Cavs by winning with authority in Cleveland. Neither team was at full strength — in addition to the Knicks missing Randle, the Cavaliers played without Jarrett Allen or Isaac Okoro — but while this wasn’t a playoff game, it meant a little more than you average meaningless game in late March.
The last time these two teams met in the playoffs, the final game of a Knicks’ three-game sweep in 1997, they combined for 157 points. Tonight the clubs had 151 by halftime. Luckily with Randle out the Knicks had another all-NBA talent to turn out. Jalen Brunson played his most dominant ball since injuring his foot a few weeks ago, scoring a career-high 48 points along with nine assists to just one turnover. They needed every one of those points to override Donovan Mitchell’s 42 for the Cavs.
In a battle between arguably the league’s two top two-way rebounding teams, the Knicks controlled the glass, grabbing 50% more rebounds than Cleveland. Seven Knicks scored in double-figures, including Obi Toppin with 12 in his first game advancing from the understudy to the lead.
With the win the Knicks’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot is one, and assuming they land the tiebreaker over the Nets’ for conference record their number to cinch the five-seed is two.
Recap to come. Happiness to linger.