Game 3 is almost upon us, Cavs Nation.
The NBA playoffs series between the Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks is split at one game apiece following a 107-90 win by the Cavs over New York on Tuesday. Cavs guard Darius Garland led the charge with 32 points in the 36 minutes he played, hitting eight of his 17 shot attempts and six of his 10 tries from the 3-point line. Guard Caris LeVert added 24 more from the bench, while guard Donovan Mitchell scored 17 and dished 13 assists in front of a Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse crowd of just under 19,500.
Will the Cavs be able to take a series lead when they move on to New York’s home court on Friday? And which of the Cavs’ younger options will step up when the team needs them the most?
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3. Darius Garland will have another breakout playoff game
It only took two playoff games to unlock, or at least show a flash of, the All-Star potential Mitchell saw in Garland.
Garland’s unmatched confidence from the 3-point line allowed the Cavaliers to dig their way out of a deficit in the first quarter, hitting shots off of two pull-up and catch-and-shoot attempts to put Cleveland within one point of New York with 5:43 remaining in the first.
The performance instilled confidence in Cavs guard Donovan Mitchell, who had a message for the 23-year-old guard in one of Garland’s highest-scoring outings since a 33-point game against the Atlanta Hawks in February, according to Basketball Reference.
“I told him, ‘This is the performance that changes your mindset,'” Mitchell said, via Cleveland.com Cavs reporter Chris Fedor. “At the end of the day, he knows he can be that good but for him to do it at this stage and this level in the playoffs, it changes his mindset.
“This is just the beginning.”
2. Evan Mobley will continue to lock up Julius Randle
Cleveland found the kryptonite for Knicks forward Julius Randle.
When Cavs forward Evan Mobley is matched up against Randle as the primary defender, both in the regular and postseason, Randle has hit 15 of his 45 shots.
Mobley showed signs of improvement between his first two playoff games. He finished Game 2 with 13 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks compared to the eight points and 11 rebounds he took down the game before. He drove in for dunk attempts and worked with his back to the basket on his way to hitting six of his 11 shot attempts in Game 2. He hit four from 13 from the field in Game 1.
“(Game 1) was our first playoff game,” Garland said, via Yahoo Sports. “(Mobley) didn’t really know what to expect, so he didn’t know the physicality that it was going to have. Last game, we got punched in the mouth. (In Game 2), I think he punched first.
“He brought that aggressiveness to (Knicks All-Star forward) Julius (Randle). He was more aggressive. He was attacking. He was rebounding. He was boxing out. He was throwing a couple (elbows), so it’s good to see my little man out there just doing this thing.”
1. The Cavs will earn the victory in Madison Square Garden
It will be hard to bet against these Cavs after Game 2. Not after they began preparing early for this series and had a comfortable outing on Tuesday.
But as much as the momentum from a 17-point win will push these Cavaliers to play their best, having home-court advantage in the Garden may shift the tides just enough for New York to at least keep it close in Game 3.
The Knicks earned victories on both games against the Cavs at the Garden during the regular season, pulling away with a 92-81 win in December before taking a 2-point triumph in late January. The Cavs went 20-21 on the road during the 2022-23 regular season, but did finish 4-1 in their last five road games with close wins over the Brooklyn Nets and Orlando Magic.
Will the Madison Square Garden crowd be able to match the energy of a playoff-charged Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse?
“I’m very excited,” Knicks guard Jalen Brunson said, via the New York Post.
“It’s going to be a great place to play. It’s always been the best place to play in the league. It’s going to be unreal. I just know that it’s going to be an electric atmosphere, for sure.”
The Cavs will take on the Knicks at 8:30 p.m. EDT on Friday in Madison Square Garden. The game will be broadcasted on ABC and Bally Sports Ohio.