Knicks elite defense suffocates Cavaliers in Game 3

knicks, jalen brunson
Apr 21, 2023; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) reacts during the fourth quarter of game three of the 2023 NBA playoffs against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks bounced back from an embarrassing Game 2 loss by handing one to the Cleveland Cavaliers Friday in a Game 3 laugher with a final score of 99-79, giving the Knicks a 2-1 edge in their first-round playoff series.

The Madison Square Garden crowd was loud and fierce as the Knicks’ defense shined, forcing 20 Cavalier turnovers to dominate Cleveland in the first playoff game at MSG since 2021.

The Cavs shot just 38.8% from the field and 21.2% from three-point range. Their 79 points was the lowest scored by any NBA team in a single game this season and was also the first time a team was held to below 80 points this season. Cavs guard Darius Garland shot an abysmal 4-21 from the floor with just 10 points after scoring 32 points in Game 2.

Everything was clicking for the Knicks in Game 3:

While the defense shined, some key Knicks players had bounce-back games offensively.

RJ Barrett had only scored 21 points combined in games 1 & 2. In Game 3, he scored 19 points on 8-12 shooting and knocked down three triples. It has been a tumultuous past few months for the 22-year-old, with talk of his minutes possibly decreasing. His willingness to attack the basket more aggressively and him finding his outside shot sparked a Knicks team that desperately needed him to figure things out.

“The thing about RJ is, he’s very steady,” Head Coach Tom Thibodeau said after the game. “He doesn’t get rattled. Thought he was really aggressive today. We got to get him into the open floor. When we do that, he’s going to make shots. When he gets downhill, he’s tough to guard.”

Jalen Brunson shook off an inefficient Game 2 performance and turned in a masterful one in Game 3, as he scored 21 points on 55.6% shooting and logged in four rebounds, six assists, and two steals.

Josh Hart and Immanuel Quickley provided 24 points off the bench combined, and Obi Toppin logged in eight points and four steals in just 15 minutes.

Julius Randle had a rare off night, as he scored just 11 points on 3-15 shooting.

Quentin Grimes suffered a contused right shoulder late in the second quarter and did not return for the second half. He notched just two points in 13 minutes of action for the game.

While it was not the most on-brand basketball game by the Knicks, they played well enough to snatch a huge victory that swung the series in their favor. They will look to win a pivotal Game 4 that could decide the series’ outcome on Sunday at MSG.

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