Cavs Not About to Downplay Rematch With Knicks: ‘It’s a Big Game for Us’

AKRON, Ohio — Without a doubt, losing to the Knicks in the first round of the playoffs took a bit of a toll on the Cavaliers.Isaac Okoro defends Jalen Brunson

So much so that, wing Isaac Okoro admitted Saturday that he rooted for the Heat in the second round. That was the Knicks’ opponent, with Miami eventually winning the series.

“I know (losing to the Knicks) stuck with me for a pretty long time,” Okoro told reporters. “It took me a minute to get over it.”

Now, they meet again. Granted, it’s just the regular season and we’re not even 10 games in. More like three. 

Each team is 1-2, and the Cavs are down at least two starters (Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen) and perhaps a third in Donovan Mitchell, who only happens to be their best player.

In other words, Tuesday’s game in Cleveland may be a rematch in name only. After that, the teams meet up a night later in New York.

But go ahead and call it another meaningless regular season game. Most healthy members of the Cavs are calling it something else.

“It’s a big game for us,” power forward Evan Mobley said. “Definitely want to go out there and really show our crowd and show our team we’re out here to fight and move forward and keep getting better and I feel like it’s going to be a good game.”

As for Okoro, there’s a good chance he’ll draw the assignment of defending Knicks point guard Jalen Brunson, one of the league’s most underrated weapons. It’s hard to be underrated in New York, but the low-key and always professional Brunson has found a way.

Okoro and the rest of the Cavs know and appreciate Brunson’s game.

So how should they try to contain him?

“Just be physical. By being physical you could wear your opponent out. First quarter, second quarter, by the fourth quarter they’re all worn out. They got dead legs,” Okoro said. “So just be physical from the start.”

Ah, yes. Physical. Some people will tell you the Cavs were missing that very trait in last year’s playoff series. They weren’t just defeated by the Knicks; they were bullied and broken. 

Basically, there will still be a long way to go after the Cavs and Knicks square off for the next two straight nights — a very long way. But it’s never too early to try to send a message.

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