There was a moment on Friday when the Knicks found themselves 27 points ahead of the visiting Cavaliers at MSG.
Cleveland didn’t score more than 24 points in a single quarter in Game 3 of the first-round series between both teams. Shesh....
New York ass-whooped Cleveland to open the weekend with a resounding 99-79 well-earned victory inside the walls enclosing The Mecca.
The neophyte Cavs arrived at the Garden thinking it would be a G-rating evening. The burly Knicks had already warned them that things would be approaching PG-13 levels. The raucous crowd breathing inside MSG on Friday, though, came with a gore-like, R-rating mentality.
And the Cavs couldn’t help themselves, returning to their hotel scared, scarred, and thinking about forfeiting Sunday’s matinee...once again inside this wonderful place we call Eden.
“It was shaking in there,” Obi Toppin said.
“It’s the Garden, man. What can I say? It was loud. It was fun to play in,” RJ Barrett claimed.
“This place is unreal. That’s it,” Jalen Brunson stated. “We matched the fans’ energy,” he added.
We outside, fam, we still outside.
The New York Knicks demolished the Cavs, but instead of blasting them with offensive bombs, they decided it was time to settle the best-league-defense dispute.
After posting the best DRtg of the season (110.6 points per 100 possessions) and rightfully fending off the Knicks and limiting them to just 99 points on the day, Cleveland got to score a measly 79 points through four quarters of basketball on Friday. Just in case you have not been paying attention, no team in the NBA this season has scored fewer than 80 points, in the regular season and the playoffs with no regard, before the Cavs failed to reach that figure yesterday.
It’s the second time a team has held the Cavs to fewer than 80 points in the playoffs since the Warriors did so back in the 2016 Finals. Before that, it had not happened since the Pistons put the clamps on the Cavs all the way back in freaking 2009.
ALL HART.— x - KNICKS ON MSG (@KnicksMSGN) April 22, 2023
JOSH HART IS A DOG! pic.twitter.com/1XIbDERhOK
“Yeah, I think coming into a crowd like this, not many people are used to it,” Isaiah Hartenstein said. “Madison Square Garden. The playoffs. Nothing like it.”
No matter what sequence you look at, it was all grit and grind inside the Garden on Friday.
After a 17-17 first quarter, it all went downhill for the visitors. The Cavs scored 15, 23, and 24 points in the final three periods. They got limited to a tiny 32 points through halftime.
The vaunted bench unit playing out of Cleveland, without Caris LeVert as he was thrown into the starting five in replacement of an overwhelmed Isaac Okoro, scored 14 points with no performer bagging more than seven. No starter donning the Big C finished with a plus/minus above -16, while all of them logged 33 minutes at the very least.
Derrick Rose checked in with 2:30 left to play. His minus-7 +/- was atrocious but still more than two times better than the best figure posted by a Cavsman. Just saying.
“They’re gonna cheer for him every time. Derrick Rose, that’s a legend,” RJ Barrett said of Pooh. “Just to be on the team with him, it’s surreal.”
Knicks fans gave Derrick Rose a huge ovation when he checked into the game tonight— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) April 22, 2023
It's his first game since February 25, 2023 and first playoff game since June 2, 2021.pic.twitter.com/ynidHgwHTt
In fact, it’s a shame we didn’t get to watch Evan Fournier (only DNP-CD), if only for a few seconds out there. He’ll have time on Sunday, as we have to assume the series won’t be returning to MSG after that, considering what these two teams did on Friday and the set-in-stone 2-1 lead in favor of your Knicks.
“Being in this environment...there’s nothing that comes close to it. And I’m just happy to be a part of it,” Brunson said after making his official postseason debut inside the Knicks arena donning the Blue and Orange threads.
Julius Randle said after the game that the atmosphere was “what he expected” and that there was “a lot, a lot of energy” inside MSG. “We were able to feed off it, so I love it,” Randle added.
“As a basketball player, you kind of grow up thinking about moments like these,” Barrett said. “It was electric in there, and happy we get to come back Sunday.”
Barrett, after struggling through the first two games of the series, scored 19 points to go with eight rebounds, three dimes, and one steal. It’s the best game of his short playoffs career and a performance that surely lifted the Knicks past the Cavs in an all-defense, no-offense affair in which both teams misfired wildly.
Cleveland shot 31-for-80 and hit just seven three-balls. The Knicks weren’t much better, shooting 39-for-83 and bagging 10 of their 33 hoisted threes.
Brunson led New York with 21 points, Randle added 11, and Josh Hart and Immanuel Quickley combined for 24 off-the-pine points with both hitting double figures. According to StatsMuse research, Brunson is the first Knicks PG with three postseason games of 20+ points since Derek Harper in 1994. Talk about the best FA signing in franchise history.
Jarrett Allen is not having a happy birthday pic.twitter.com/woBPDfymjx— New York Basketball (@NBA_NewYork) April 22, 2023
The Cavs were so bad that Game 3 felt more like a fluke than a trend, though, even more considering their fantastic Game 2. Brunson knows, so he was quick to say that “they’re going to come in here Sunday ready to go, so we have to be prepared,” in his post-game interview.
That said, Brunson didn’t take anything from the Knicks’ own winning, dominant Friday effort. “We were locked in,” the guard said. “Credit to the coaching staff, getting us ready and everyone just locking in on our game plan and executing and everyone on the same page.”
Barrett shot 8-of-12. Brunson went 10-of-18. Hart bagged 4-of-5. IQ finished 4-of-6, and the Knicks outscored the Cavs by 27 points in the 23 minutes he spent on the floor.
Mitchell Robinson, who wrapped up his Game 3 with seven points and seven rebounds (along with three assists, two steals, and two blocks), wasn’t that impactful on offense but was a defensive menace, and he knows it.
Mitchell Robinson has some thoughts on the Cavaliers getting rattled in the paint pic.twitter.com/LACIETHDCv— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) April 22, 2023
Ian Begley of SNY asked Robinson about the Cavs hesitating around the rim with the Knicks’ big man sticking to the paint. Mitch’s response: “You saw it, definitely,” he said before gesturing some shivering motion.
Toppin, who logged 15 minutes off the bench for the third game in a row, thinks “everybody knows their role,” and believes the Knicks did “everything they had to do.”
New York took a 25-24 lead with 8:28 left in the second quarter and never looked back till the moment was all over.
“This place, man...it’s unbelievable to play at,” started Brunson. “I can’t really explain it. I’m just happy they are the way they are.”
Good to know the boys will be back at it on Sunday, earlier than ever. Game 4 tips off at 1:00 ET. Short turnaround. Skip mass, attend the game, watch from home, be around MSG. Whatever. Just don’t miss it.