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Rebounding and hustle continue to propel Knicks to series lead

One win away from advancing, but job’s not done.

Cleveland Cavaliers v New York Knicks - Game Four Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

It's been stated so many times this season but the New York Knicks continue to outwork their opponents. It sounds simple and on the surface level, it is pretty simple. The Knicks ultimately wore Cleveland down in Game 4 by putting in more effort.

Putting in effort is nothing new for a Knicks team that tied for second in rebounds and was third in second-chance points per game this season. It has become their identity and even has shot up a level since the addition of Josh Hart.

Game-by-game rebounding/second-chance point recap:

In Game 1 the Knicks held a 51-38 and 17-11 offensive rebounding advantage. This resulted in the Knicks outscoring the Cavaliers 23-12 in second-chance points. New York would win 101-97.

In Game 2, Cleveland flipped the script and outrebounded the Knicks 43-36. New York still held a 13-11 offensive rebounding advantage but the Cavs led 17-13 in second-chance points. Cavs win 107-90

Game 3 saw the Knicks hold a 45-42 rebounding advantage. Cleveland actually had a 13-11 edge in offensive rebounds but the Knicks had a 14-11 second-chance point edge. Knicks win 99-79.

Game 4:

The fourth game of this Knicks versus Cavaliers first-round series embodied what it has meant to be a Knicks fan this season. New York jumped out to a quick start in the first quarter, up 30-23 after one. Jalen Brunson was doing his thing with ten points in the opening frame. The Knicks shot 51 percent from the floor in the opening quarter.

The second quarter was won by New York 24-22. A tightly contested quarter but being up seven after the first, the Knicks carried a nine-point 54-45 lead into halftime.

It felt like the Knicks should've been up more than nine at the half but you take any lead you can get in these games.

After five straight losing quarters, Cleveland finally looked like the 50-plus regular season win team in the third quarter. The Knicks' nine-point lead became a 59-59 tie with 8:17 left in the quarter. Cleveland started the third quarter 7-7 from the field to tie it up. A Jalen Brunson three-pointer with six seconds left put the Knicks up 73-71 going into the fourth.

The Cavs would shoot 12/23 in the third, scoring 26 points. New York shot 6/13 in the quarter and 4/7 from the foul line, scoring only 19 points. A big change from the Cavs in the third quarter was their shot volume. In the first half, the Knicks outshot them 49-35 in field goal attempts and 17-9 in three-point attempts. The third quarter alone saw Cleveland attempt 23 shots, pressing and putting urgency on just needing to score.

This was shaping up to be a Knicks story we’ve seen a lot this season. Build a lead, look amazing, go cold from the field, let the other team back in, and either slug out a victory or lose a close game. When it came to average fourth-quarter margin this season, New York was about league average with a +0.1 differential. Cleveland was second in the league with a +2.0 differential.

4th quarter:

The final 12 minutes of this game was the biggest fourth quarter in Knicks basketball in a long time. After being outscored 26-19 in the third and letting Cleveland right back into this game, the response was critical. Either take a commanding 3-1 lead or go back to Cleveland tied 2-2. An arena the Cavs went 31-10 in this season and the court the Knicks got embarrassed on in game two.

Jalen Brunson’s three to give the Knicks the lead going into the fourth was huge as he would open up the scoring to take a 75-71 lead. RJ Barrett would make his presence felt early in the fourth with five straight points to take a 80-75 lead, forcing the Cavs to call timeout.

Jalen Brunson would hit a huge three with seven minutes left, extending the lead to seven:

Taking an 84-77 lead, the seven-point deficit felt insurmountable for a Cleveland team that has had trouble scoring.

Obi Toppin even got in on the fun with a bit of a chaotic possession to extend the Knick's lead 86-79:

This Josh Hart coast-to-coast possession signifies the attitude of the Knicks this season and ever since the trade. We are going to run, take it downhill, and try to stop us. In this instance, Cleveland was helpless:

Fittingly, Jalen Brunson iced the game with 1:46 left:

World-class response:

The Knicks were punched in the mouth by Cleveland when they were outscored 26-19 in the third quarter. An important mark to remember with this Knicks team is they fight, which is why we’ve come to love them. In a fourth quarter it really felt the Knicks needed to win, they shot 11-9 from the floor and 5-7 from the foul line. Outscoring Cleveland 29-22 in the closing frame, the Knicks would win 102-93.

New York would outrebound Cleveland 47-33 and 17-7 in offensive rebounds. Second-chance points were huge as the Knicks had a 21-12 advantage in that category. When they play to their strengths, good things tend to happen.

It was a massive answer and once again displayed the resiliency we’ve seen from this squad all season.

Timely baskets and stops now have the New York Knicks one game away from reaching the second round of the playoffs!

The series resumes at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland at 7:00 PM EST. Tuesday, March 26th.

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