CLEVELAND — Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 107-90 hammer job of the Knicks in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference playoff series on Tuesday.
1. This was more like it. These weren’t just the Cavs we saw for most of the regular season. You could make the case that they were even better.
2. For much of the first quarter, it looked like a repeat of Game 1. The Knicks were physical, the Cavs seemed a little hesitant, and it was easy to think it would go down to the wire.
3. Then it was Darius Garland time. He scored 15 points in the second quarter, and 26 for the half, as the Cavs went on a massive flurry. I think that’s what is known as a “Cav-alanche” in Cleveland, and man oh man, that was the case. Garland led the way.
4. For a guy who was playing just his second playoff game, that was big. He spoke after the game about being more aggressive, especially after being mostly a no-show in the second half last time.
5. Overall, yeah, the Cavs were much more aggressive, much more confident, and matched the Knicks physically.
6. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff on the win: “This is what we talked about pregame. We asked our guys how they’d respond to adversity. … That’s a phenomenal effort by our group.”
7. That about sums it up.
8. Or how about Donovan Mitchell? He didn’t need to score 40 for the Cavs to have a chance. Or 30. Or even 20. Instead, the man who always raises his game in the playoffs went about it differently this time, forcing nothing and delivering the ball to the hot hands (Garland and Caris LeVert).
9. In the end, Mitchell finished with 17 points and a career-high 13 assists. Can’t go wrong there. Not when the Cavs are winning in a rout.
10. Anyway, back to LeVert. He had the exact type of game the Cavs needed off the bench, scoring 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting and offering tons of energy. Like Garland, LeVert did an about-face from last game. If the Cavs are to win this series, that sort of stuff will have to continue.
11. Mostly, as Bickerstaff said, the defense was just fantastic from the second quarter on. When that happens, it leads to opportunities on the other end. The Knicks were dazed and confused, and looked like a different, jumbled bunch compared to Game 1. The Cavs had a lot to do with that.
12. Evan Mobley is still feeling his way around the playoffs, as Knicks power forward Julius Randle has been particularly physical. Still, Mobley went for 13 points and 13 rebounds, and along with Jarrett Allen, really anchored the Cavs defensively.
13. It was not much of a night for Isaac Okoro, who played just three minutes. Part of that likely had to do with the other guys just producing when Bickerstaff produced them. It was a case of a coach sticking with what’s working.
14. We did finally see Danny Green, who played 20 minutes and hit a 3-pointer. Green wasn’t a game-changer, but you could see his confidence in everything he did when out there. A lot of fans had been calling for him to get some minutes and his bog-game experience was on display.
15. For the Knicks, it was a night to forget. Randle scored 22 and Jalen Brunson went for 20, but was just 5-of-17 shooting, including 1-of-8 on threes. The Knicks shot just 24 percent on threes overall (7-of-29).
16. So there you have it. The series is tied at 1-all and off we go to New York for the next two. Both teams have reason to believe. But if the Cavs become more than just Mitchell, as they were on this night, the Knicks may have reason to worry.
Cavs-Knicks Halftime Dribbles – Hoops Wire https://t.co/TLcauJJO7u
— Sam Amico (@AmicoHoops) April 19, 2023