Edited by Liz.
From the moment it became official that the New York Knicks would face off against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the 2023 NFL playoffs, NBA fans knew it would be special.
Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley said “The only thing that's exciting about the Eastern Conference is Knicks vs Cavaliers. That's the only thing exciting,” Barkley said on the NBA Game Break on TNT. Barkley is right.
It’s exciting for a few reasons, one it is the 4th seed vs the 5th seed, the two teams in the playoffs with the closest regular season record. They are the most evenly matched teams in the playoffs and the outcomes is much less predictable than the Miami Heat (8th seed) going up against the Milwuakee Bucks (1st seed).
Last offseason, the Knicks were considered to be a heavy favorite to land Utah Jazz’s star shooting guard, Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell is from New York and grew up a Knicks fan. All signs indicated he would be a Knick, but at the last minute instead of being traded to the Knicks, he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers due to the Knicks refusing to do away with young players, such as Quentin Grimes and Immanuel Quickley.
The Knicks ended up signing Jalen Brunson who recently helped lead the Dallas Mavericks to the Western Conference Finals in the 2021-2022 season.
Julius Randle a key figure of the Knicks for the past 3 seasons was questionable leading up to the series since he missed the last 5 games of the regular season, when he sprained his ankle during a win against the Miami Heat on March 29.
In his 3 games against the Cavs in the regular season, Randle averaged 23.0 points, 5.0 assists and 10.3 rebounds.
Shortly before the game, the Knicks made it official that Randle would be available for Game 1.
The stage was set for this matchup.
The game was a close back and forth game, with neither team leading by more than 6 points to end either of the first three quarters.
Even though the game was close Jalen Brunson and Donovan Mitchell showed up. As did Julius Randle.
Mitchell finished with 38 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds for the Cavs meanwhile Brunson’s 27 points, 2 assists, and 2 rebounds along with Julius Randle’s 19 points and 10 rebounds helped lead the Knicks to a 101-97 final in Game 1 of the series.
This led long time Knicks superfan Stephen A. Smith to exclaim, “New York Stand Up,” after the game while on NBA Countdown on ESPN.
Game 2 is on Tuesday April 18, at 7:30 PM Eastern Time.
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