The New York Knicks defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers on the road 101-97 Saturday to snatch Game 1 in the best-of-seven first-round playoff series.
Jalen Brunson led the way for the Knicks, a common theme in New York all season long. Brunson scored 27 points (21 in the second half), shot 11-24 from the field, and once again outlasted Donovan Mitchell and the Cavs despite Mitchell scoring 38 points.
Jalen Brunson and the Knicks were unstoppable in the second half:
After a slow first half that saw him play only nine minutes after recording three personal fouls, Brunson kicked things into high gear to start the third quarter, as he scored 12 points in that period and would later hit some clutch buckets in the fourth to secure the victory.
His Villanova teammate Josh Hart accompanied Brunson with a stellar performance of his own. Hart finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds, and shot 8-11 from the field, and knocked down the go-ahead three-point shot with 1:49 remaining in the game to give the Knicks a 95-93 lead that they would not relinquish.
Julius Randle returned to action for the first time since suffering a sprained left ankle on March 29 and recorded a 19-point, 10-rebound performance that included two made three-pointers. Randle also snagged a huge offensive rebound in the game’s final seconds to allow Quentin Grimes to knock down the pair of game-winning free throws.
Despite struggling offensively, RJ Barrett was highly impactful on the defensive side of the ball by recording four steals. A solid turnaround from Barrett in Game 2 would be ideal for the Knicks to have an even stronger chance to take the series.
It was not the prettiest win the Knicks have ever got, as the team shot just 8-29 from outside the arc, and Head Coach Tom Thibodeau acknowledged that they will need to be better to beat Cleveland through the rest of the series.
“They’re a terrific team,” Thibodeau said. “We know we are going to have to play a lot better than we did tonight.”
Taking Game 1 on the road officially gives the Knicks the home-court advantage the remainder of the series. They will look to continue their winning ways in Game 2 on Tuesday and hope to head back home to Madison Square Garden for Game 3 up 2-0.
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