Cavaliers go down to the Knicks 1-4 in a disappointing string of loses, ending season


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New York Knicks’ Jalen Brunson tries to dribble the ball past Cleveland Cavaliers’ Donovan Mitchell in a high-stakes series of playoff games that ultimately eliminated the Cavaliers.

Ishan Kulkarni, Staff Writer

The Cleveland Cavaliers have been on the rise ever since LeBron James left in 2018. Every season they have improved up to now, when the team broke 50 wins in the regular season—a commendable feat. The team ended the regular season with a 51-31 record, good for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. This left them matched up with the fifth-seeded New York Knicks in the first round of the playoffs in what was slated to be an exciting and competitive series.

The Cavaliers, who have home-court advantage due to their higher seeding, hosted the Knicks for the first game of the series. The game was competitive, but the Cavaliers were never really able to catch the Knicks. New York established a 6-point lead at the end of the first quarter and remained ahead for most of the game. With about two minutes left in the game, Jarrett Allen put back a missed shot to give the Cavaliers the 93-92 lead, their first since the first quarter. 

From then on, both teams traded clutch baskets, with the Knicks’ Josh Hart hitting a deep three-pointer to retake the lead 95-93. The Cavaliers needed one stop to get the ball back to try to take the lead at the very end of the game. Jalen Brunson missed what might have been the dagger, but the Knicks’ Julius Randle grabbed the offensive rebound, forcing the Cavaliers to foul with just over four seconds left in the game. Quentin Grimes hit two clutch free throws to put the Knicks up by four and, a few seconds later, the Knicks took control of the series with the 101-97 win. 

The Cavaliers had mixed performances from the team, with Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland and Allen doing most of the scoring with 38, 17 and 14 points respectively. Evan Mobley struggled all night, going 4-13 from the field and only adding 8 points for the Cavaliers. Caris LeVert also struggled for the Cavaliers off the bench, only adding 3 points in 18 minutes on the floor.

For the Knicks, Brunson and Randle had 27 and 19 points, respectively, and the team got a solid boost off the bench from Hart, who had 17 points, compared to the 14 points the entire Cavaliers’ bench contributed. The Knicks also seemed to be the deeper team, with three players off the bench playing more than 20 minutes, while the Cavaliers only had two players playing a little less than 20 minutes off the bench while four starters played close to 40 minutes. 

The Cavaliers looked to bounce back following their disappointing loss and did just that in the second game. The game started off a little shaky for the Cavaliers, with starter Isaac Okoro picking up 2 personal fouls and committing 2 turnovers in the span of three minutes. The Cavaliers turned to LeVert and Cedi Osman to give them a boost and the two did just that. Garland had a strong performance, scoring 32 points to go along with 7 assists. Mitchell took on a larger role in playmaking with 17 points to go along with 13 assists and Mobley contributed with a double-double of 13 points and 13 rebounds. 

LeVert was the X factor for the Cavs, as he added a crucial 24 points in 40 minutes off the bench. For the Knicks, Randle and Brunson again led scoring with 22 and 20 points respectively, but Garland’s 32 points proved to be too much and the Cavaliers had a strong comeback win of 107-90 to even up the series 1-1. 

With the series now shifting to New York for the third and fourth games, the Cavaliers hoped to build on their momentum from the second game, but the Knicks had other plans. The game started off very close with no team really gaining an advantage through the first quarter, leaving the score tied at 17 at the end of the quarter. In the second quarter, the Knicks picked up their defensive intensity and started pulling ahead, getting stops and converting turnovers into points on the other end to build a decent lead. 

Going into halftime, the Knicks were up by 13 with a score of 45-32. The Knicks never looked back in the second half, only adding to their lead by playing tough defense to prevent the Cavaliers from getting any easy baskets. At one point the Knicks had a 27-point lead in the fourth quarter, and when the game was over, the Knicks held the Cavaliers to 79 points as a team—one of the lowest scores in recent playoff history. Garland had a terrible performance, scoring only 10 points off of 4-21 shooting.

The Knicks’ defense was the biggest story of the night, notching 14 steals and forcing the Cavaliers into 20 turnovers. Mitchell and LeVert, who got the start over Okoro, lead the Cavs’ scoring, with 22 and 17 points, respectively. Brunson led the Knicks in scoring with 21 points, and RJ Barrett added a solid 19 points to give the Knicks a dominant win of 99-79 to go up 2-1 in the best-of-seven series. 

This set up a pivotal fourth game in the series, with the Cavaliers needing a win to avoid going down 3-1 in the series. The Knicks, on the other hand, wanted to build on their strong home performance in the third game, and they did just that, going up by 7 points to end the first quarter. The Knicks added to their lead in the second quarter, leading by as many as 15 points in the quarter, before the Cavaliers cut that back down to 9 points to go into halftime.

The Cavaliers came out strong to start the third quarter, going on a 14-5 run to tie the game at 59 midway through the third quarter. Both teams went back and forth throughout the third quarter, with no team pulling ahead, and the Knicks leading by only 2 to end the quarter. Finally, the Knicks began to pull ahead, with clutch baskets from Brunson, Barrett and Hart to go up by as many as 11 with a few minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Cavaliers were unable to hit shots to bring themselves back into the game and the Knicks won 102-93 to take a strong 3-1 lead in the series. Garland led the Cavaliers in scoring with 23 points, but Mitchell’s struggles were evident throughout the night as he went 5-18 from the field. Meanwhile, Brunson and Barrett gave the Knicks huge scoring with 29 and 26 points respectively. 

With the series shifting back to Cleveland for a crucial fifth game, the Cavaliers had their backs against the wall down 3-1 in the series, needing three straight wins to move on to the second round. Both teams came out of the gates trading baskets and stops in the first quarter. The Cavaliers went down by 7 points at the end of the first quarter but couldn’t close the gap, going down by 10 points into halftime. Knicks’ forward Randle suffered an ankle injury as he landed on another player’s foot, aggravating a previous injury. Despite this big loss for the Knicks, the Cavaliers didn’t capitalize in the third quarter and the Knicks added two more points to their lead, making it a 12-point lead.

With the season on the line in the fourth quarter, the Cavs strung together some stops and found the bottom of the net to cut their deficit to 6. However, that was as close as Cleveland got. The Knicks won it 106-95 to seal the series 4-1. 

The Cavaliers’ star big men Allen and Mobley both struggled, with Allen only scoring 4 points and grabbing 4 rebounds while Mobley scored 6 points and grabbed 9 boards. Mitchell and Garland led the Cavaliers in scoring with 28 and 21 points, respectively, but it wasn’t enough to hang with Brunson, who scored 23 points, and the rest of the successful Knicks.

Throughout the series, the Cavaliers’ struggles were persistent up and down the roster, and outside of the second game, they never really put together a complete performance. Their offense was especially stagnant, scoring less than 100 points in all their losses. The bench also had weak contributions, which further weakened the offense when one of their key players failed to perform.

The Cavaliers will now go back to the drawing board for a very crucial offseason to improve the team with a strong and young existing core so they may become legitimate contenders next year.