Knicks. Cavaliers. PLAYOFFS! We got predictions, baby!
Joe Flynn: Cavs in 5
One of the sad truths about the Knicks this season is that the Eastern Conference was mostly the weaker of the two for the past 20 years, when they couldn’t take advantage. Now that the Knicks are very good, the East is a beast. Their reward for winning the no. 5 seed is facing the Cavaliers, who had the NBA’s second-best net rating this season. If Julius Randle were healthy, the Knicks would have a legitimate shot at the upset. But he seems destined to miss the first game or two, and it might be difficult to reintroduce a hobbled Randle mid-series. Sometimes luck is just against you.
Russell Richardson: Knicks in 6
For all the attention paid to Cleveland’s guards in this series, I’m more concerned about the frontcourt. Thibs will scheme to get Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley into foul trouble early, to mixed results. Julius will play, although not super-effectively in the first two games; by game three, he’ll be feasting and beasting again! New York will win one of the first two games in Ohio, and then the next two at home. Easy peasy. Issac Okoro will eventually appear in limited minutes—maybe two or three games—and be inconsequential. Spida will average 35 points per game, but don’t fret: Jalen Brunson will match him stride-for-stride. Ultimately, the Knicks bench will make the difference, as they did when the two clubs met during the regular season. Knicks wins the series, 4-2.
Sean Saint Jacques: Knicks in 6
The first two games of this series are crucial and one thing the Knicks have shown is the ability to win tough games on the road. I think that experience from the regular season will carry over and the defensive intensity that travels with them will play a huge role for New York in the series. I think R.J. Barrett is the biggest x-factor in the entire series, but he doesn’t have to play out of his shoes for the Knicks to win. This is what the Knicks brought in Jalen Brunson for and Julius Randle will make an impact in this series. We just have to see how he manages his injury. We know what Donovan Mitchell brings to the table, but it’s about the Knicks slowing down the supporting cast if they are going to win and advance. I think they will do that and win the series four games to two.
Lee Escobedo: Knicks in 6
The Knicks are better than the Cavs in every matchup but shooting guard, where Donovan Mitchell bests Quentin Grimes. But the Knicks have the edge at point guard (Jalen Brunson over Darius Garland), small forward (RJ Barrett over Isaac Okoro), power forward (Julius Randle over Evan Mobley), center (Mitchell Robinson), bench, and head coach. Tom Thibodeau is the X-Factor in this series, as he must continue evolving his in-game approach to rotations, substitution patterns, and crunch-time adjustments. Thibodeau has been coaching his ass off since the All-Star break and will be facing off against J. B. Bickerstaff, who has never coached in the playoffs. The Cavs bench might have a high +/-, but they lack athleticism, three-level scoring, or anything beyond catch-and-shoot ability. The Knicks Mobb Deep bench is one of their biggest strengths, which will help to outlast the Cavs' overreliance on their star backcourt for points and starting frontcourt for defense.
Kento Kato: Knicks in 6
Given the uncertainty surrounding Julius Randle and his ankle, I am tempted to put my bias and desires aside and choose Cleveland. Because as of now, that’d probably be the smart and safe bet. Cleveland, as Joe mentioned above, had one of the best net ratings in the league and won’t have to worry about any major injuries to any of their top players heading into the series. But I’m still holding on to the hope that the Knicks can pull this off and redeem themselves from the disappointing series against the Hawks two seasons ago. New York has had some big gritty wins on the road, and are more than capable of stealing one against a young Cavaliers team in the first two games. Randle, with no setbacks and a few off days, could hopefully be 90-100% by game 3. And as stated earlier, the sentiment is that the Knicks have the advantage at pretty much every position that isn’t shooting guard. It may be a long shot, because Donovan Mitchell, who has historically been pretty good in the playoffs, is likely going to have a huge series. But I am using this prediction to convince myself that it’s possible and speak this into existence. Knicks in 7 thanks to some gutsy performances by Randle, another offensive masterclass series from Brunson, and Quickley taking yet another step while leading a bench unit that could ultimately be the difference this series.
Antonio Losada: Knicks in 6
For one, I refuse to believe the Knicks won’t snatch at least one game playing on the road. We’re talking about the fifth-best team in the NBA when it comes to playing away from home. (Only the Sixers have won more away from their arena than inside of it among postseason teams.) For two, the Cavs have the best defense in the league (111.7 DRtg) but New York scored the fourth-most points per 100 possessions through 82 games (118.9 ORtg). There is no way the series end without one or two offensive showdowns that fall on the Knicks' side of things. For three, there is this little guy called Jalen Brunson doing things. For four, the bench is hella strong and boasts the soon-to-be Sixth Man of the Year in Immanuel Quickley, an ever-growing Obadiah Toppin, and near-invincible Josh Hart. For five, believe it or not, the Knicks have an experienced coach in Tom Thibodeau that knows how to navigate the postseason waters. For six, New York passed on trading for little Mitchell and instead retained big Mitchell, who will be a deciding factor in this series dominating the Cavs frontcourt. Poetic justice.
Matthew Miranda: Cavaliers in 6