The first-round matchup between the Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks is set, and it is dominated by the storyline of Donovan Mitchell’s offseason move. Pretty much everyone, including Mitchell, firmly believed that he would be suiting up for his hometown team this season. The Knicks, however, decided to resign RJ Barrett and got Jalen Brunson in free agency. Brunson has been a star in a Knicks uniform, making the Knicks’ move seem more reasonable.
Both teams have a young core that managed to exceed expectations and now that they have played their way through successful regular seasons, they are both trying to prove that they belong with the top teams. While the Cavaliers’ core has no real playoff experience outside of Mitchell, the Knicks made it to the first round in the 2020-21 season. Both RJ Barrett and Julius Randle struggled in the series against the Atlanta Hawks and are now looking to redeem themselves.
Unfortunately, Randle sprained his ankle and will be out until at least the beginning of the playoffs. Without Randle, this is a very different series, but Randle is tough and competitive. If there is any way that he can play, he will, and the Cavaliers have to gameplan for him. The Knicks are a much better first-round matchup than the Miami Heat, for example – no one wants to meet Jimmy Butler and his squad in the playoffs and much less a team of newcomers – but they are a formidable opponent. So, let’s look at some things the Cavaliers must do to win this series.