NBA Playoffs: 3 keys to victory for the Cavaliers’ series against the Knicks

Evan Mobley Cleveland Cavaliers (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Evan Mobley Cleveland Cavaliers (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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3. Cavaliers: Win the battle in the paint

The Cavaliers are generally a low-volume three-point shooting team, and Darius Garland is the only one of the regular rotation players to shoot over 40 percent from long range. They average 53 points in the paint per game and often have an advantage with their two big men and explosive guards. Nevertheless, the Cavaliers often settle for shots from behind the arc rather than putting pressure on the rim. If they want to beat the Knicks, they cannot do that.

The Knicks only allow an average of 45.7 points in the paint and score 51.9 points in the painted area themselves. Neither team can rely on outside shots alone, so the Cavaliers need to win the battle in the paint. The odds are in their favor. While Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley are both top-20 shot blockers in the league and a nightmare to meet around the rim, the Knicks only have one real rim protector in Mitchell Robinson.

So far, Mobley has fared well against Robinson in the regular season. Over 106.7 partial possessions, Mobley shot 9-16 when Robinson guarded him, made seven trips to the free throw line, and scored 23 points. Recently, Mobley has become much more physical and confident in the paint. It changes his offensive game as well as the entire team’s and while Allen is a great presence in the paint, Mobley’s involvement will be key.

Another part of the paint battle is rebounding, and that is where Allen comes in as the Cavaliers’ strongest rebounder. The Knicks average 16.2 second-chance points per game, and usually the Cavaliers only allow 12.1 points off of rebounds. New York beats them in rebounding by almost five rebounds per game, though, so the Cavaliers need to put in the extra work.

Especially their bench and guards have to step up here because the Knicks’ guards are much more active on the boards. Allen will have his hands full with any big man the Knicks throw at him, but he will be the key to denying second-chance points and grabbing offensive rebounds for his team. So, one key for the Cavaliers’ success will be to assert themselves in the paint early on with the presence of their two big men, as well as drives and rebounds from their guards.