The Cavs Core Four: Evaluating their Game 2 performances vs Knicks

Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)
Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports) /
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In the NBA postseason, there is no time to dwell on losses. There is also no time to rest on laurels. It is all about the next game and what can be done to be better. However, the theme of the postseason is this: how well can a team respond to a loss? Will they roll over and accept defeat? Or will they fight back? The Cleveland Cavaliers chose the latter in their Game 2 win against the New York Knicks.

The Cavs lamented the fact that they lost the physicality battle in Game 1. They took that more personally than Michael Jordan in the Last Dance. Evan Mobley was a different animal on the glass. Jarrett Allen was everywhere from passing lanes to battling Julius Randle in the paint. Donovan Mitchell was orchestrating the offense like it was Beethoven’s fifth symphony. Darius Garland played like the All-Star point guard he is, pacing the Cavs with 32 huge points.

All in all, the Cavs Core Four bounced back in a huge way to give the Cavs a much needed victory. Here is my analysis of their performances.

Darius Garland’s Game 2

Garland emphasized in Game 1 postgame media availability that the Cavs needed to hit first and not lay down if they take the first punch. In Game 2, they did take a punch as the Knicks raced out to a 12-4 lead. Even so, the Cavs stayed even keeled, and that is when Garland went to work.

The Cavs flipped the switch and entered halftime with a 20-point lead and it was all because Garland did what he didn’t do in the second half of Game 1: be aggressive. Garland finished the first half with 26 points on 6-of-10 from the field, including a blistering 4-of-6 from three-point range. Prior to him, there have only been two Cavs players that have finished with 25 or more points in one half of a playoff game: LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. In his Game 2 postgame media availability, Garland admitted that he was hard on himself after watching the film of Game 1.

He felt that he could be much better than the way he played. He also emphasized that in the two days after Game 1 that everyone in the organization told him to be more aggressive and to play with more assertiveness. He had long chats with Mitchell, who was telling him that he will always be there for Garland, but he needs to be more aggressive.

Garland got the message loud and clear. In order for the Cavs to win this series, he needs to channel the same aggression every night. He stepped it up in his second postseason appearance and will look to keep it rolling at Madison Square Garden.