Evan Mobley launched a floater on the first possession of Game 1 for his team, despite some contact from Mitchell Robinson. Mobley retrieved the offensive rebound after the shot wasn’t successful and went up strong to make a one-handed flush shot over Robinson.
The Cleveland Cavaliers were supposed to bring that type of power into the series’ opening game against the New York Knicks, and everyone anticipated that they would. The Cleveland Cavaliers have the best defensive record in the league. They are used to intimidating other teams and bringing them to their knees with their persistent defensive ferocity.
Mobley’s play wasn’t decisive in the game, which was unfortunate for Cleveland. The next play made by the New York Knicks in this game was the deciding factor.
Jalen Brunson continued his work without pausing to consider the highlight that Mobley had just provided. He grabbed Isaac Okoro off the dribble, pushed him, and then blasted a floater over Jarrett Allen’s extended hands. While it seemed to be a routine play, Brunson took control of the game in the third quarter thanks to this play.
Brunson made repeated attempts to make things difficult for Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, and any other guard the Cavaliers matched against him. He engaged them in a physical contest on the attacking end by pushing them back, putting his shoulder into their bodies, and playing rough with them. With a bump and fade shot over Mitchell, Brunson closed off a run that helped the Knicks construct a nine-point lead for themselves in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the Cavs realized that none of their guards could deal with Brunson, so they switched him out for a larger defender. Cedi Osman gave it his all to defend Brunson, but in the game’s waning minutes, Brunson made a decisive basket over him. Despite Cedi Osman’s greatest efforts, Brunson prevailed.
The fact that Brunson pushed the Cavs into adjusting their defensive game plan demonstrated how they let themselves be bullied by New York during the whole game.
On offense, the Cavs were not aggressive and settled for many three-point shots from the outside. Only Mitchell was successful from beyond the arc, making six of his team’s ten attempts at a triple while the game was in progress. But, to make those makes, he had to win 16 of their 31 attempts first. The Knicks, in comparison, hit fewer three-point attempts throughout the game, but they also made a more concentrated effort to get to their places on the court and shoot shots that were more inside their comfort zone.
Internally, Cleveland was also manipulated in several ways. A score of 51 to 38 outrebounded them, and they only managed to block two shots during the match. The Cavs have to find a solution to this significant challenge if they want to win this series. Although the Cavaliers are ranked 25th in the league in rebounding, the Knicks are third in this category. They can’t give New York the advantage on the boards because it would give the Knicks, who have one of the highest scoring averages in the league, the ability to decide how the game is played. This is something they can’t do.
Fans are used to seeing bully balls of a certain kind, but this one was different. The Cavaliers were still intact by the Knicks’ use of many post-plays in succession. Instead, they exercised patience to reach their destinations and used their abilities to get buckets. That was more of a gradual and steady slog than a strenuous one. The outcome was the same either way. The Cavaliers gave up, giving the Knicks the advantage of playing at their home arena.