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Game 2 Preview: Knicks at Cavaliers- 04/18/23

After stealing Game 1, the Knicks look to give no quarter

New York Knicks v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game One Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

It’s time for the New York Knicks to step on the Cleveland Cavaliers' neck. The Knicks made me look good with my single-digit Game 1 win prediction. The Knicks look to be too much for the Cavs. As I mentioned in almost every article I’ve written on the series, the Knicks beat the Cavs in every matchup, point guard, small forward, power forward, center, bench, and head coach, except for shooting guard.

Speaking of which, Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau let Donovan Mitchell cook while putting the clamps on everyone else. Thibodeau employed a different scheme than Knicks fans are used to seeing, a blitz defense that collapsed on Mitchell and Darius Garland on drives, forcing them to dump it off to Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley in short rolls, where neither have the handles or post moves to thrive.

It worked to perfection. Mobley, who averaged 16 PPG, was held to eight. Garland, who averaged 21.6 PPG, was held to 17. Mitchell blew the doors off his 28-PPG average for a game-high 38. But again, that was Thibs scheme. Mitchell can’t keep up this kind of workload for the whole series. Garland is not the same three-level scorer as Mitchell and struggled against double teams and the larger body of RJ Barrett, who was his primary defender. As I said in the last preview, Knicks fans must get used to Mitchell averaging over 30 on them this series. It’s all about shutting down the other guys.

Despite Sixth Man of the Year finalist Immanuel Quickley being held to just three points on 0-5 shooting, the Knicks’ bench managed to outscore the Cavs’ bench 37-14, mainly due to Josh Hart’s spirited performance. The Cavs bench has been overhyped for days leading up to Game One because of their collective +/- stats. But frankly, they suck. It’s primarily catch-and-shoot, flat-footed wings with little off-the-dribble ability and minimal offensive output. Compare Quickley, Hart, Isaiah Hartenstein, and Obi Toppin to Lamar Stevens, Cedi Osman, Dean Wade, and Ricky Rubio. It’s not even close. The Knicks have guys who could start on other teams. The Cavs have guys who wouldn't make other teams' active rosters.

Speaking of the bench, J. B. Bickerstaff showed his ass twice, incorrectly banking on his bench to provide a spark. First was the six laughable minutes Ricky Rubio played in the first quarter. He went zero point on 0-1 shooting, with zero assists, and was routinely coked by Josh Hart on switches. Rubio must have been dusted off from whatever closet they kept him in, ice within. The second embarrassing Shaqtin’ a Fool coaching moment was putting Osman on Brunson to quell his hot shooting in the fourth quarter. Osman’s length disrupted Brunson for about two minutes until he adjusted and burnt him with handles and footwork, getting what he wanted at will.

The Cavs talked a lot about “adjustments” and meeting the Knicks' “physicality” in the last few games. The truth is, there are no adjustments. The Cavs played their whole hand, basically giving Mitchell the ball and letting him ISO. Garland will surely play better moving forward, but he’s not the pressure cooker Mitchell is on offense. The rest of the guy's average single digits for a reason, they are incapable of being anything but dumbbells on offense. Mobley and Allen are beasts on the defensive end but still raw on the other side. When the Knicks collapsed on Mitchell and Mobley was forced into on-the-spot action, he struggled to make anything happen on-ball. He simply lacks the handles and floor vision in year two. It's asking too much of him at this stage of his career. But you can bank, in a few years, he’ll be there. The Knicks have to enjoy facing off with him as a neophyte this season.

There’s no way in hell the trip of Quentin Grimes, Quickley, and Barrett play that ass two games in a row. Brunson is the most bankable guard in the East. And Randle looks like the rest did him good, as he appeared calm and focused in his return from an ankle injury. Even with Hart expected to miss Game Two nursing his sprained left ankle, Thibs' “next man up” strategy has proved to be fully bought in by his loyal soldiers. Expect Quickley to have a breakout game. Maybe Thibs will continue to surprise us and unleash Miles “Deuce” McBride on Mitchell, allowing the two 6’1 guards to go at it. But, unlike the Cavs, we have options.


Knicks by double digits. That’s right, one of Barrett, Grimes, and Quickley bust out for 25+ points, and the Cavs' bench has no answer. Book it.