The New York Knicks defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 106-95 in Game 5 on Wednesday night to advance to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs for the first time since 2013. Jalen Brunson led the Knicks in scoring with 23 points, and RJ Barrett added 21 more points to the victory for the Knicks.
Even when Julius Randle worsened his left ankle injury and missed the second half of the game, the Knicks comfortably dominated what turned out to be a far more one-sided series than anybody anticipated.
The series began in New York with a victory at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, continued with two wins in the raucous Madison Square Garden against the Cavaliers, and culminated with a victory in Cleveland. The winner of Miami vs. Milwaukee will face the fifth-seeded Knicks in the following round.
Brunson was the consistent ingredient for the Knicks throughout the series. The Knicks signed the stocky guard as a free agent last summer before their attempt to acquire Donovan Mitchell in a trade from Utah failed, and he ended up in Cleveland. Brunson was the consistent ingredient for the Knicks throughout the series.
Brunson outperformed Mitchell for the second consecutive playoffs, averaging 24 points per game and leading New York to victories in all four scoring categories throughout the series. Brunson was playing for Dallas when he defeated Mitchell last year and came out on top.
The Cavaliers won 51 games during the regular season, but their inexperience in the playoffs was evident during their first postseason series in five years. Mitchell scored 28 points, while Darius Garland added 21 for the Cavaliers. The Cavaliers needed to prepare to play.
On the other hand, Cleveland’s toughness looked to be a more significant concern. The Cavaliers were defeated in all four games, including the deciding game by a score of 48-30, in which they were also outrebounded.
Mitchell Robinson, the 7-foot center for the New York Knicks, completed the game with 18 rebounds, 11 of which were offensive. Robinson also didn’t stop criticizing the Cleveland Cavaliers for being weak after Game 3, claiming they seemed to be spooked.
Cleveland had high hopes that it might relieve some of its success in 2016 and return from a 3-1 hole to stun Golden State, much as LeBron James and the Cavaliers had done in the 2016 NBA Finals. However, Brunson, Barrett, and the rest of the Knicks all had other things in mind.
They could finish off the Cavaliers without Randle in the second half.
After worsening a sprained left ankle late in the second quarter, the All-Star forward had to leave the game and did not come back for the third quarter. Obi Toppin began in his place and led the Knicks to an 18-point advantage in the third quarter with 12 points to contribute to the scoring total.
To the joy of the few hundred Knicks supporters who rejoiced behind their team’s bench, New York never allowed Cleveland to go closer than six points in the fourth quarter.
Until he was knocked out, Randle played as well as he had during the series.
After attempting to block a jump shot by Caris LeVert, he fell awkwardly and had to remain on the court for a few minutes while the trainers examined him. Randle was assisted in getting to his feet, but he stubbornly marched off the field and into the locker room despite needing medical attention.
It turned out that the Knicks didn’t need his services.
The strength of New York’s bench was another crucial aspect of the series. When head coach Tom Thibodeau used one of his reserves, the players stepped up to the challenge.
This was not the case with the Cavaliers, led by coach J.B. Bickerstaff, whose bench was an issue throughout the season and was more exposed when the games were of greater significance.
One of the events that occurred in the first half highlighted Cleveland’s annoyance.
Alone on the wing against Brunson, Isaac Okoro refused to bite on a move and kept New York’s guard in front of him. He came close to coming up with a steal, but he fumbled the ball out of bounds with two seconds remaining on the 24-second shot clock. Brunson was the one who scored.
The ball was inbounded to New York, where Immanuel Quickley promptly made a 3-point shot to put the Knicks up by 12 points.
Knicks: G Because of his sprained right shoulder, Quentin Grimes was out for the second game in a row. After taking a hit early in the first half of Game 3, he has been unable to play. New York’s record against Cleveland in the playoffs climbed to 13-2 after the team swept all four series (1978, 1995, 1996, and 2023).
Garland made history for the Cavaliers by being the second player in franchise history at age 23 or younger to match those totals in a playoff game when he scored 23 points and had ten assists in Game 4. James accomplished this feat eight times while playing with the Cavaliers. Since 2008, Cleveland has a home record of 46-15 in the playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena. Nevertheless, the Cavaliers have been eliminated from the postseason at the building in 2015, 2018, and 2023.