Going into the series, I predicted the Cleveland Cavaliers would win in six games versus the New York Knicks. I thought it would be a very competitive series, but ultimately Cleveland would win in six or seven games, but probably six games. Quite frankly, this series really wasn’t that close.
Now, it was understandable to believe the Cavaliers would win because they had the best player, they had home court, and their top end talent of Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen was just better than the Knicks’ top end talent. Most of the time in a series the team that has that wins the series.
The Cavs didn’t win, though, because Mitchell and Garland didn’t show up enough when needed. The Knicks were able to expose some of the Cavaliers’ obvious flaws and just simply physically overwhelmed them. Mitchell Robinson, in particular, just single-handedly dominated Jarrett Allen, which was argubly the story of the series.
Again the Knicks were able to expose some of the Cavs’ flaws we knew existed, but they really highlighted the flaws, which will lead to some interesting conversations in the offseason. After the surprising way the Cavaliers were eliminated in five short games, here are the takeaways from their series loss to the Knicks.
Takeaway No. 3: The Cavs couldn’t match the Knicks’ physicality
With the exception of Game 2, the Knicks physically dominated the Cavaliers. For instance, the Knicks outrebounded the Cavaliers 48-30 in Game 5, with 17 of those being offensive rebounds. Simply put, the Cavs defense played mostly great this series, until it came time to finish the possession.
Mitchell Robinson himself had more rebounds (18) than Mobley and Allen combined in Game 5. In Game 1, New York had 17 offensive rebounds to the Cavs 11, and in Game 4, the Knicks had 17 offensive rebounds to the Cavs seven. Further, in the elimination game everything completely unraveled, as New York had 17 offensive rebounds to the Cavs four.
It seemed like in pivitol moments in the series, whenever there was a loose ball, the Knicks would always beat the Cavaliers to the punch. The Knicks were able to win all the hustle stats that the Cavs pride themselves on winning, and again, Cleveland until they had to finish the possession were pretty good defensively in this series, but New York dominated them on the glass and in key points of games, they converted when grabbing extra possessions. It’s a little concerning how much Robinson dominated Allen and the way Allen was less and less effective as the series went on.
I’m not going to say that this was a good series for Mobley. He did a good job and he showed up more than Allen on defense for the most part, but Mobley isn’t strong enough, especially against guys like Robinson and Randle, who are just clearly more put-together than Mobley at this stage. That led to issues closing out possessions at times, and offensively, he was limited. Mobley will get stronger where what happened in this series won’t happen again, but he just isn’t there yet.