On Saturday evening, the Cleveland Cavaliers will begin their first round series against the New York Knicks, in what has the makings of a hard-fought No. 4-No. 5 matchup in the Eastern Conference.
The Cavaliers do have home court advantage in the series, which should bring some peace of mind, with how Cleveland has done at home this season. In the regular season, the Cavaliers had a 31-10 record at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, and it’s safe to say the home crowd is going to be a raucous one for Cleveland.
In the regular season, though, New York did win three out of four games versus Cleveland, and the Knicks beat the Cavaliers 130-116 on March 31 in Cleveland. They shot the heck out of the ball, and New York was led by Jalen Brunson, who had a career-high 48 points in that contest.
Now, it’s fair to have some concerns going into the series, based some on the Knicks success against the Cavs in the regular season, and New York has been one of the more impressive teams in the league in the past few months. That said, the Cavaliers have been in that time in their own right, and Cleveland still is a team that for much of the season, has been able to get crucial stops throughout games to spur on victories.
Looking at this matchup, there a few Cavs players, in particular, that should be in-line to really make their presences felt, and here, we’ll take a closer look at them.
3 Cavaliers who should feast vs. the Knicks – No. 1: Donovan Mitchell
The first player we’ll highlight is going to be a big shocker; it’s Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell has brought a different level of star power to the Cavaliers this season.
He’s had a career season, and has been even better than one probably would’ve expected throughout the year in his first year with Cleveland. He was named an All-Star starter for the first time after making the All-Star Game in his last three seasons with the Utah Jazz, and Mitchell has been the primary leader for a Cavs team that won 51 games in the regular season, and returned to the postseason for the first time since 2018.
Mitchell had also been on a big-time heater to close out the regular season, as he had four 40-point-games in his last four appearances for the Cavaliers, and had 42 points against New the Knicks in late March. The Knicks defeated the Cavs then, but Mitchell did have his share of success versus New York in the regular season, and with the way Mitchell has been playing since the All-Star break, one should be confident he’ll largely be on-point in the playoffs.
Mitchell’s three-level scoring is so difficult to account for, and to counter that, he should be able to generate plenty of quality looks for others, out of drives, pick-and-roll and/or in transition.
Generally speaking, with Mitchell’s postseason track record in mind, when it comes to his play, he should be set to put up big numbers. Even with a very capable defender in Quentin Grimes often likely on him, and plenty of attention to him overall, Mitchell is too talented of a player to not respond on the playoff stage.
The Cavs should be able to look to Mitchell to guide them, and with others involved with him, he should help set the tone.