How Jalen Brunson’s Knicks Stole Game 1 Win Over Cavs

Jalen Brunson, New York Knicks, NBA News
NBA analysis Network

After overcoming early foul trouble, Jalen Brunson scored 21 of his 27 points in the second half to lead the New York Knicks down the stretch in their 101-97 Game 1 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was a classic NBA playoff duel with Donovan Mitchell scoring 38 points, often having an answer.

“There’s no time to dwell on that, I was just trying to keep everything positive,” Brunson said of early foul trouble. “I knew my time would eventually come around.”

Along with Brunson, Julius Randle made a significant impact in his return to the lineup while he manages his sprained ankle recovery. While he shot 7-20 from the floor and had five turnovers, he scored 19 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists, with a game-sealing offensive rebound with 6.4 seconds left.

“Obviously those are our guys, and we rely on them heavily on both sides of the ball,” midseason acquisition Josh Hart said after the game. “For [Randle], his first game back, I’m not sure what he did on the offensive side, but he was rebounding the ball, contesting shots.

“Him and obviously [Brunson] just controlling the tempo, getting us into our sets, doing those kinds of things that sometimes don’t show up in the box score. Having them both back, and us being at full strength, it feels good.”

NBA NEWS & PLAYOFFS SCORES: Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle, Donovan Mitchell, New York Knicks & Cleveland Cavaliers Updates

The Knicks led by as many as 12 points at one point, but both teams went blow for blow in clutch time. After Jarrett Allen cleaned up a missed layup by Donovan Mitchell on an aggressive drive to the rim, the Cavs took a 93-92 lead with 2:12 remaining in regulation. Hart immediately answered with a pull-up 3 after Cedi Osman sagged off of him. Hart finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

Brunson continued to show how he could rise to the occasion and adapt to his matchup in the postseason, scoring nine points in the final 5:39, including a drive going hard left after an offensive rebound for a layup, putting the Knicks up 99-95 with 35.1 seconds left. He often utilized a floater to counter the Cavs’ shot-blocking threats lurking in the paint. He sliced up Cleveland’s switch defenders, often for short-range jumpers, too.

There is a combination of limitations the Cavs face in this series that will be important to monitor as the matchup plays out. It starts with a frontcourt consisting of Allen, and Evan Mobley keeps getting worked on the boards. While not all are on them, the Knicks hauled in 17 offensive boards, with Mitchell Robinson and Hart each recording five.

The lack of an answer on the wing has proved costly for the Cavs, too. Caris LeVert is too inconsistent offensively without providing value defensively to be a clear option, finishing with three points while shooting 1-7 from the floor in 18 minutes. Isaac Okoro continues to be a floor spacing liability as he went without a make on four 3-point attempts. Cedi Osman closed the game and was hunted by Brunson often down the stretch by being put in the action.

NBA NEWS & PLAYOFFS SCORES: Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle, Donovan Mitchell, New York Knicks & Cleveland Cavaliers Updates

While losing a playoff home opener is a challenging way to start a series, Mitchell’s Cavs will not hang their heads after one game. Cleveland will be motivated to protect its home floor in Game 2 to prevent falling 0-2 in the series.

“First off, this isn’t the end of the world. We got to go get one right back,” Mitchell said. “There’s no room to sit here and feel sorry or feel upset and get down. It’s one game. We will respond.”

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