Robinson provided extra motivation, but Cavs must hit their open looks

Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)
Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports) /

After a dominant Game 2 performance, the Cleveland Cavaliers fell 99-79 in Madison Square Garden to the New York Knicks on Friday night in a game where they were way off the mark.

In a postgame interview, New York big man Mitchell Robinson (7/7/3 in Game 3) suggested the Cavs were “shook up” trying to attack the paint that night.

Robinson’s comments are well deserved, and he should get his share of praise for his rim protection, too. Overall, the Cavaliers played without the spirited efforts they showed in Game 2.

However, out of Cleveland’s 81 total field goal attempts, 41 came from within the key. Further, Cleveland’s team shot 58.5% from within that range. While the Cavaliers certainly could have shown more dominance in the paint, their struggles came from poor passing decisions and rushed three-point attempts.

Robinson’s postgame comments should give the Cavs extra motivation. They also need to shoot better from the perimeter, though.

Comments like these may remind Cleveland why they want to win – to prove doubters wrong. They know what they are capable of, and they need to show that.

Holding the Knicks, one of the best offenses this season, to only 99 points in Cleveland’s worst performance of the year showcases that the Cavaliers did not lose because they are the worse team. Cleveland lost to themselves. Their defense maintained just as well as it has in Games 1 and 2. Their offense on open attempts led to their downfall. That is simply something that is incredibly unlikely to continue going forward.

In Game 3, the Cavaliers scored the lowest points of any team thus far this season, and they did so through abysmal shooting and astonishingly poor passing, totaling 20 turnovers.

So far, this series has been a back and forth brawl for each squad. Going up 2-1 has given the Knicks a sizable advantage going forward, but it can be swiftly taken away if the Cavaliers respond in Game 4 and take back home court advantage back with a tied 2-2 series.

Clearly, the Cavs’ confidence was severely hampered compared to Game 2. With Robinson’s remarks, he may have inadvertently given Cleveland the motivation needed to conjure a resurgence in Game 4 and the rest of the series.

While the Cavaliers typically avoid trash talk or conflict, this team has been no stranger to answer back after being humiliated. The series is far from finished, and an overly confident New York team might experience this first hand going into Sunday’s afternoon matchup.

Surely, this is the outcome every Cleveland hopeful wants, as tying the series would give the Cavaliers a healthy advantage in the final three meetings in regards to home court. If the Cavs tie the series on Sunday, both Games 5 and 7 will be in Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, if necessary.

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Through the regular season, the Cavs ranked sixth in the league with a 31-10 record at home. Thus, ensuring home court advantage in the final stretch against New York would be a crucial factor in Cleveland’s opportunities for success this postseason.