After winning Game 4 of their first round NBA Playoffs series against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the New York Knicks are one win away from advancing to the second round for the first time since 2013.
Last time the Knicks won a NBA Playoffs series, the team was lead by Carmelo Anthony and had veterans like JR Smith on the roster. That was a team that needed to win in that moment. The Knicks missed the playoffs the season after that.
This season, the Knicks are winning based on their young talent and acquisition of Jalen Brunson in free agency. The team is up 3-1 against a team that traded for Donovan Mitchell, a star player that nearly everyone expected to be on the Knicks. That depth that New York retained due to holding off on that trade is a very big part of why the team is in the playoffs in general, and up in the series against the Cavaliers.
It is hard to count a team led by Donovan Mitchell out of a series, but if the Knicks keep doing what they are doing, it should be expected that the Knicks close out the series.
4. Mitchell Robinson and Josh Hart
Coming into this series, there was a lot of talk about the Cavaliers bigs Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, and to put it simply, Mitchell Robinson has gotten the better of the matchup at center. He has grabbed key rebounds I’m all of the wins and has been a good presence inside on defense. His best game came on Sunday in Game 4, when he scored 12 and grabbed 11 rebounds.
Josh Hart has been a home run trade for New York, and his contributions on the boards has been huge as well. He grabbed 10 in Game 1, six in Game 3 and seven in Game 4. With the size advantage that the Cavaliers are supposed to take advantage of with Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, Josh Hart’s effort on the boards along with Mitchell Robinson’s as well has made a big difference in New York’s wins.
As most Tom Thibodeau teams are, this Knicks team thrives on effort, they want it as much as anybody. They only need one more win in the next three. It would be surprising if they do not get a similar rebounding effort in one of the next three games.
3. RJ Barrett’s conviction
RJ Barrett took some warranted criticism after the first two games of this series. He followed that up with arguably two of the best games in his career in games three and four. He was decisive, and made the right plays for pretty much the entirety of both games. RJ Barrett might struggle again on the road in Cleveland, but his play over the last two games is a massive confidence boost. RJ Barrett might not show out like in games three and four, but he has figured out how to be a positive contributor in this series. It would be a surprise if he significantly strays from what he has been doing the last couple of games.
2. Jalen Brunson
The signing of Jalen Brunson has worked out about as well as the Knicks could have hoped for, and you could even make a case that he is the best free agent signing in the history of the franchise. Jalen Brunson is taking advantage of the way the Cavaliers are defending him, and when he does get that mismatch against Mitchell, it has not been pretty for the Cavaliers. The Knicks needed a steady hand this season, and Jalen Brunson provided that for New York. Most importantly, he is someone the Knicks go to when they need a bucket. That is something that will not change over the next three games. He will be a big part of the Knicks closing this series out.
1. Home court in Game 6
To put it simply, the Cavaliers looked shook playing at Madison Square Garden. The fans have been dreaming of seeing a team like this, and they are bringing the energy. If the Knicks fail to close out this series in Game 5 in Cleveland, coming back to New York for Game 6 with a chance to close the series out is a huge advantage. This could be a moot point if the Knicks win Game 5, but it certainly is a good thing to be able to come back home for Game 6 if it comes to that.
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