After a tough 101-97 loss in Game 1 to the New York Knicks, the Cleveland Cavaliers responded and surged to a dominant 17-point win in Game 2. With the series headed to Madison Square Garden tied 1-1, all eyes are on the crucial Friday night Game 3.
Thanks to a phenomenal scoring outburst by Cavaliers guard Darius Garland, the Cavaliers have put themselves in a favorable position going forward. His efforts led to 26 of Garland’s 32 points being scored in the first half, the most of Garland’s career. Garland showed a committed effort all game, earning a +29 plus-minus, the highest of any player that game.
Before the Cavaliers travel to New York, these are three predictions that I believe could definitely happen in the next matchup.
Prediction No. 1: Cleveland changes their starting five
Over the 2022-2023 regular season, the Cavs deployed a total of 22 starting lineups due to injury and the season long campaign for a steady starter in the three spot. Former Auburn Tiger Isaac Okoro started in 46 games and started in both first round games against New York.
In Game One, Okoro played just under twenty three minutes, making one out of his six field goals. J.B. Bickerstaff drastically changed the team’s rotation in Game Two, taking Okoro out of the game two minutes and forty five seconds into the game in favor of Cedi Osman and Danny Green.
In Okoro’s short appearance, he gained two early fouls, missed one field goal, and committed two turnovers. Isaac Okoro’s knee injury may still be nagging, affecting his performance, leading to a need for more rest. The change in rotation came as a surprise, considering Okoro’s typical role as a starter and main perimeter defender for the Cavs.
While Isaac Okoro has served a critical role for the Cavaliers on defense throughout the season, the Knicks exploited his lack of scoring consistency in Game One by disregarding him on the perimeter when Cleveland held the ball.
The Cavs shifted toward a more spread out offensive approach in Game Two, playing either Evan Mobley or Jarrett Allen at center with four perimeter threats completing the lineup.
With this in mind, Bickerstaff will likely consider changing the starting five going into Game Three, possibly placing Osman or Green in Okoro’s spot to offer Cleveland a stronger threat from behind the arc.