God Damn Knicks! Take Game 1 with CLUTCH Plays at End. NY 101 Cleveland 97

Jalen Brunson made Clutch shot after Clutch shot, Josh Hart — playing through a sprained ankle — was all over the court, hitting a HUGE 3 and ripping down important rebounds, Julius Randle flew out of nowhere to grab the most important rebound of the game, and Quentin Grimes hit 2 CLUTCH free throws to ice it as the Knicks — in command all game — withstood a late Cleveland charge to win, 101-97 in Cleveland on a Saturday night.

The Knicks withstood a torrid 38-pt performance by Donovan Mitchell — who was hitting 3’s, driving the lane, and making hustle defensive plays.

And the most important Knick of all: coach Tom Thibodeau, who had this team prepared for this game — rebounding, defending, playing at an intense playoff level from the start.

“The big thing was Jalen’s shot making, Josh making great hustle plays, and you can’t say enough about the offensive rebound Jules got at the end — that was a monster play, and then Quentin making 2 free throws,” said Knick coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “The rebounding was key for us; they’re a terrific team — we know we’re going to have to play much better than we did tonite.”

1. Knicks Took Early 12-Point Lead in 2nd Quarter

The Knicks had Julius Randle questionable until game time due to the ankle he badly sprained two weeks ago, but when game started, he was on the court. His early buckets got the Knicks out to a 9-2 lead before Cleveland countered and retook the lead midway through the 1st.

Coach Tom Thibodeau threw the first curveball of the game when he subbed Randle with Obi Toppin only 5 minutes in — and Toppin played well, helping NY retake the lead.

Randle was back in with 3 minutes left and the Knicks took control for the 1st time in the game at the end of the 1st quarter into the 2nd quarter against Cleveland’s 2nd team — with big buckets by Hart, Randle, Brunson, and Isaiah Hartenstein.

When Hartenstein made 2 free throws with 9 minutes left in the 2nd quarter, NY had a 12 point lead.

2. Cleveland Pulls Back within 5 at Half

With about 5 minutes left in the 2nd quarter, Donovan Mitchell started to go nuts — hitting 3’s and drives — to carry Cleveland back into the game. He got some help from Darius Garland, but it was mostly the Donovan Mitchell Show.

Great DMitchell Save; Bad Ref Call

With 1:28 left in the half, and NY up 5 — Donovan Mitchell seemed to make a spectacular play jumping head-first out of bounds to save the ball — rebounding his own miss — and refs credited him with the save.

But the play didn’t look right on first glance — and post-game replays showed the refs had made a bad call — it should have been Knicks ball.

But Evan Mobley missed a runner on the Cav’s extra possession so it was a neither here-nor-there play. Except refs got it way wrong.

3. Knicks Push Lead Back to 11 Pts in 3rd

Donovan Mitchell penetrated and fed Evan Mobley for a dunk early in the 3rd, and Garland followed with a bucket to pull Cleveland to within 1 point.

But the Knicks pushed back:

  • Jalen Brunson with a drive,
  • Jalen Brunson with another drive,
  • Donovan Mitchell with a 3 to tie the game,
  • RJ Barrett with a steal feeding Toppin for a Dunk to retake the lead for NY,
  • Evan Mobley with a layup off a DMitchell drive to tie the game,
  • Jalen Brunson with a drive to regain the lead for NY,
  • Garland with a jumper to tie it,
  • RJ Barrett with a 3 to put NY up 3.

You get the picture. Dogfight.

And then the last 4 minutes of the 3rd, the Knicks took control again — Brunson. Defense. Rebounds. Steals. Ahead of court slams by Obi Toppin.

Toppin hit a 3. Brunson hit 2 drives. Toppin hit a slam off a Josh Hart rebound. And Josh Hart hit a jumper and NY was up by 11 — 78-67.

4. DOGFIGHT 4th Quarter

The 4th quarter was more Dogfight.

NY had a 10-point lead with 6:34 left after a Julius Randle 3, when Cleveland went on a 16-5 run fueled by Donovan Mitchell and two blown ref calls that went against the Knicks.

Brunson-Mitchell Mano-a-Mano

The final frenetic minutes featured a mano-a-mano duel between DMitchell and Brunson:

  • Mitchell hit a deuce to make it 87-81 NY with 5:46 left,
  • Brunson hit a drive to counter,
  • Mitchell hit a 3 to make it 89-84,
  • Brunson hit a 3 to counter, NY 92-84.

Bad Ref Call Goes Against Knicks

Mitchell then missed a 3 and Randle missed a deuce in the lane on the other end with 3:50 left, Josh Hart and Cedi Osman went for the rebound on the left baseline — Osman appeared to foul Hart and push him out of bounds and Osman grabbed the rebound, and threw it up court for a Mitchell 3 to make it 92-87.

A HUGE play that had Knicks Twitter howling.

The Turnovers

RJ Barrett then got stripped by Darius Garland which led to a Mitchell score and it was 92-89 NY with 3:16 left.

On the very next play, Brunson tried to split defenders at half court and was stripped by Mitchell — who dove on the floor and tipped the ball ahead of the court to Cedi Osman for a layup and 92-91 game.

Cleveland Takes 1-Pt Lead with 2:12 Left

Brunson fired a rare blank — missing a jumper — and down the other end Mitchell drove baseline but missed a drive — partially blocked by Mitchell Robinson — but Jarrett Allen cleaned up with an offensive rebound and put back and Cleveland had a 93-92 lead with 2:12 left, as Josh Hart came down hard on his ankle.

It was the worst of times for NY — which called a timeout as Donovan Mitchell strutted off triumphant and Hart limped off on the sprained ankle.

5. The Frenetic Finish

During Thibodeau’s timeout he replaced RJ Barrett with Quentin Grimes, and Mitchell Robinson with Isaiah Hartenstein (for offense).

  • Josh Hart hit a HUGE 3 — limping back down court on the ankle — to put NY back on top by 2 points.

  • Mitchell MISSED a 3 and Hart Pulled Down a HUGE rebound on the sprained ankle.
  • Brunson came down and hit a HUGE step-back jumper for a 4-pt Knick lead.
  • Mitchell countered with a drive — foul on Grimes — Mitchell hit both free throws. NY 97 Cleveland 95.
  • Pressure back on the Knicks: Brunson countered with a drive to regain NY’s 4-pt lead with 35 seconds left.

  • Jarrett Allen scored inside off a timeout to make it a 2-point game again.
  • Brunson missed on a drive but Julius Randle flew in for the HUGE offensive rebound — and fed Quentin Grimes who was fouled with 4 seconds left.

Grimes hit both CLUTCH free throws for the old ballgame.


NY outrebounded Cleveland 51-38.

Mitchell Robinson was monster inside — 8 rebounds, 2 steals, and lots of defensive pressure. Randle and Hart had 10 rebounds each; Hartenstein had 5 rebounds; Barrett had 4 rebounds, and Grimes had 5.

7. Barrett Good & Bad

RJ Barrett was trending on Twitter after the game for his turnovers in the 4th quarter — he was stripped late, and stripped/blocked on two drives to the rim.

But RJ also had 4 steals during the game — all resulting in scores — and played great defense thru the evening, with 6 assists as well.

The Boxscore



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