It’s been discussed a lot this season but the New York Knicks have continuously made big plays in critical moments. Game 1 of the first-round series against the Cleveland Cavaliers again highlighted that.
The Knicks' forte all season has been rebounding and second-chance points. They finished tied for second and third in those respective categories this season.
New York did what they do best against Cleveland to steal a game on the road. They outrebounded them 51-38 and had a 17-11 offensive rebounding advantage. Regarding second-chance points, the Knicks led 23-12 in that category, a huge difference maker.
After a ten-point Knicks lead in the fourth quarter became a one-point deficit with 2:12 left, it felt like Cleveland would take their game back. Josh Hart would answer with a three, followed by Jalen Brunson scoring to take a four-point lead with 1:15 left. Two free throws by Donovan Mitchell cut the lead 97-95.
Up 97-95, the next possession would result in Isaiah Hartenstein’s one shining moment. An offensive rebound that led to Jalen Brunson scoring to extend the Knicks' lead to four with 35.1 seconds left.
The biggest play of the game would come on the next offensive possession. Brunson’s missed jumper was able to find the hands of Julius Randle. Randle passed it back out to Quentin Grimes who calmly hit two free throws to go up 101-97 with 4.1 seconds left.
Here are the two plays below that really signify who the New York Knicks have been all season:
Twice at the end of the game with the Cavs down 2 Cedi played great defense on Brunson but both times the Knicks got the offensive rebound off misses pic.twitter.com/vdAPpHFSSi— (@TheCediFanClub) April 16, 2023
Josh Hart again brought the fire off the bench, scoring 17 points and grabbing ten rebounds (five offensive, five defensive) in 33 minutes. Although Hart is coming off the bench, it is expected he will be in the closing lineups and he has elevated this team. The Knicks do not win game one in Cleveland without Josh Hart (excellent trade).
Other quick shoutouts go to Isaiah Hartenstein, Immanuel Quickley, and Obi Toppin. Hartenstein was a team-high +19 in 22 minutes. His impact continues to be felt as seen with the massive offensive rebound with 35 seconds left. Quickley had a quiet statistical game but still finished as a +8. Toppin scored nine points in an effective 14 minutes and came away as a +12. All four players that came off the bench had a plus impact when they were in the game.
The Knicks have a deep team and if certain players are playing well or positively impacting the game, they should be rewarded with closing minutes. It will be interesting to see how this is monitored as RJ Barrett (-13) and Mitchell Robinson (-15) had the worst plus/minus on the Knicks in this game. Making sure you’re most effective five players are playing should always be the key.
It was the Knicks' first Game 1 playoff victory on the road since 1999 and hopefully, we’re just getting started.
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