5 Keys For New York Knicks To Knock-Off Cleveland In Playoffs
As the play-in rounds are underway in the 2023 NBA Playoffs, the New York Knicks, led by head coach Tom Thibodeau, are strategizing game plans to defeat superstar Donovan Mitchell and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The best-of-seven series starts on Saturday night at 6pm in Cleveland and here are five keys for the Knicks to win four games before the Cavs do.
#5 Mitchell Robinson Needs Double-Digit Rebounds
Knicks center Mitchell Robinson will have his hands full with Cleveland center Jared Allen on both sides of the floor. In fact, according to Zach Braziller of nypost.com, this season against Cleveland, Robinson averaged 6.3 points per game with 10.7 rebounds and one block in the match-ups. Despite the nice numbers against the Cavs, Mitchell Robinson had NET rating of minus-8.9. That means the Knicks were outscored by 8.9 points per 100 possessions with Robinson in the game. These numbers were a bit odd for Robinson. The 7-foot center was second on the Knicks during the regular season with a NET rating of +7.3, behind only Josh Hart, who was +11.9. The Knicks were 3-1 against the Cavs in the regular season. Robinson has maintain or elevate his game and make sure that he grabs a dozen rebounds each game, in order for New York to be competitive in this series.
#4 Quickly Must Contain Mitchell
Cleveland guard Donovan Mitchell averaged 28.3 points per game in the regular season. Mitchell will most certainly be the defensive assignment of Immanuel Quickly, when the Knicks guard is on the floor. New York’s defense finished the season exactly 12 points per 100 possessions better when Quickley was in the game, according to cleaningtheglass.com. If Quickly can contain, not stop, Mitchell, the Knicks will have a good chance of winning this series.
#3 Grimes & Barrett Must Hit Triples
With Cavs' center Jared Allen and forward Evan Mobley protecting the paint, like the basket is their fortress, it's imperative for the Knicks to hit open shots from the perimeter. RJ Barrett commented to theathletic.com on Cleveland's stifling defense, “They can’t guard everything.” This season, the Knicks were not known as a great 3-point shooting team. However, players like guard Quinten Grimes have taken advantage of the open shots being created by Jalen Brunson, Julius Ranldle and RJ Barrett driving to the hoop and kicking it out. Over the past nine games, Grimes has attempted 90 3-pointers and made 43 of them. Tom Thibodeau will take those numbers any day.
#2 Jalen Brunson Just Needs To Be Jalen Brunson
In a great preview of this match-up last season, as pointed out by Mike Vaccaro of nypost.com, Brunson's old team, the Dallas Mavericks took on the Utah Jazz and their star at the time, Donovan Mitchell. Bruson and the Mavs knocked off Mitchell and the Jazz in six games. Dallas superstar Luka Doncic missed the first 3 games of that playoff series. In the four Dallas victories, Bruson averaged 30 points. Jalen Brunson is the heartbeat of this Knicks team. A steady pulse will propel this New York team into the next round.
#1 Julius Randle's Ankle Has To Hold-Up
If Jalen Brunson is the heartbeat of this Knicks team, then Julius Randle is the backbone. The power forward injured his ankle back on March 29th against Miami and has been out ever since. After practice on Tuesday, Thibodeau told reporters that Randle was no longer in a walking-boot and the head coach is hopeful to have the All Star back for Saturday night. Thibodeau told nypost.com, “Making steady progress. Taking it day-to-day. He’s doing some running, shooting, scripting, that sort of thing.” Those are all encouraging words for Knicks fans that are hoping to see their team win a playoff series for the first time in a decade (2013 vs. Boston Celtics). It all gets started Saturday at 6pm on ESPN.