RJ Barrett & Knick DEFENSE Crush Cavs. NY 99 Cleveland 79

A game after getting crushed by a frenetic Cavs defense, the Knicks laid down an even stingier one — and made adjustments on offense — to crush Cleveland at a ROCKING Madison Square Garden in Game 3 of the best-of-7 series.

RJ Barrett stood tall for the Knicks on both ends of the court, especially in the 1st quarter and early in the 2nd quarter when both teams couldn’t get much going against the other team’s defense. Barrett was the Knicks’ X-factor — getting to the rim for quick, efficient power drives, and hitting his 3.

Then late in the 2nd quarter Barrett got help on offense — Jalen Brunson and the Knick 2nd team showed out. The Knicks took over the game with a 22-8 run before the half, increased the lead in the 3rd quarter, and blew the Cavs off the court in the 4th — with NY up by 26 at some points. An almost identical stomping to the one NY received from Cleveland in game 2. Touche.

On a frenetic Friday night in NYC.

“It’s one game, is what it is,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “Now the challenge is to get ready for game 4. We have to take a look at the film, look at the things that we can do better, make our corrections and be ready for the game on Sunday. I think the activity on defense was important for us. Some of it was they missed some open shots too. We know that the next challenge will be even greater, and we need to play better.”

1.  Thibodeau

The biggest hero for the Knicks was coach Thibodeau — who had the team make corrections after the game 2 loss. After that defeat, Thibs said “We’ll just take a look at the film. Each game’s different. You’re playing the same team over and over. Nothing changes on how you process everything and how you prepare for the next game. Hopefully we’ve built that habit over the course of the season. Go back home, study, make corrections and prepare for the next game.”

He did and the Knicks team did.

The Knicks outrebounded Cleveland, had less turnovers (14 to 20), applied an even tighter Defense, and looked much better on offense.

2. Barrett

Like a chess game it seemed, Thibs and the Knicks had RJ Barrett moving around the board like a bishop — setting screens for him to get clear paths to the rim.

The Knicks’s Defense — including Barrett’s defense — also got Barrett into the open court, where he was devastatingly efficient.

On the defensive end, Barrett helped to Shut Down Darius Garland — who went 4-21 from the floor for 11 points. Barrett also guarded Caris Levert — who almost single handedly kept the Cavs in the game at the beginning of the 3rd quarter, hitting three straight 3’s and a deuce. LeVert hit his first 2 shots of the 4th before Barrett shut him down — LeVert missing his next 3 shots and getting stripped for an Obi Toppin slam the other way.

Barrett finished with 19 points on 8-12 shooting (3-6 from 3), 8 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal, and a +10.

“His floor game in game 1 was outstanding,” said Thibs about Barrett. “He had 6 assists and 4 steals; he didn’t shoot well. The thing about RJ — he’s very steady. He doesn’t get rattled. I thought he was real aggressive today. When you get him into the open court, he’ll make shots. He gets downhill; he’s tough to guard.”

3. Knicks Defense

The Knicks’ defense shut down Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, and the Cavs attack. Mitchell Robinson and Julius Randle were ALL OVER the Cavs front line of Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen.

“The decision making — to have the ability to be up, get back, protect the rim,” said Thibs on Mitchell Robinson. “Where he’s making his decisions — very good. He can cover a lot of ground very quickly. You’re going to get 2 and 3 efforts from him. And then offensively, going to the boards — the offensive rebounding is huge as well.”

Randle only scored 11 points on 3-15 shooting but no one noticed — his Defense was Tremendous all evening.

4. Brunson

Jalen Brunson was in his bag from the 2nd quarter on. He shook off tough defense from Isaac Okoro and really went to work when Donovan Mitchell was on him. Brunson dominated — with his so-crafty drives into the lane for his deadly floater or short jumper, or passing to open Knicks.

Brunson had 21 points on 10-18 shooting (0-4 from 3) with 6 assists and a +20.

5. The 2nd Team

The second team came to play — turning in an immaculate performance in the 2nd half especially — turning the game into a rout.

Immanuel Quickley was on his game — 4-6 shooting (2-3 from 3) for 11 points and a +27.

Obi Toppin played great Defense — intercepting passes — and got ahead of the open court for SLAMS — he had 8 points (on 3-8 shooting) and 4 steals.

Isaiah Hartenstein played BIG inside — 7 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals in 18 minutes.

And Josh Hart was everywhere — guarding the hell out of Donovan Mitchell all evening and hitting 3’s and drives on offense. Hart had 13 points on 4-5 shooting (2-2 from 3; 3-4 in free throws), 6 rebounds, and 2 steals.

DMitchell had 22 points on 9-19 shooting and tried his best to get Cleveland going, but was unable to against the Knick pressure defense. He was a -19.

Quentin Grimes left the game with a shoulder contusion early in the 3rd quarter. He played 13 minutes.


The game reached its epiphany when Brunson hit a drive in the 4th quarter and got a dab from John Starks under the basket as Madison Square Garden was erupting .

World Wide Wob picked up more:

The Fans

Madison Square Garden was LOUD. “I have goosebumps after 40 years folks!” said Walt Frazier as the game started.

After the game, Knick fans celebrated on the streets (and subways) of NYC.

The Bing Bong Guy caught some of it:

The Boxscore


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