The New York Knicks have brought playoff basketball back to Madison Square Garden and have not disappointed so far in the 2023 NBA Playoffs. The Knicks won Game 4 at home vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers by a score of 102-93, taking a commanding 3-1 series lead as they head back to Cleveland for Game 5. They have the Cavs on their heels, and so far have looked like the better team in this series despite being the lower seed. Led by star Jalen Brunson, the Knicks are playing suffocating defense and getting timely buckets from Brunson and company in the crunch time minutes.
Through four games, Brunson is averaging 24.3 points, 5.0 assists, and 4.3 rebounds while shooting 45.7% from the field. He has been unquestionably the best player on the floor for the Knicks, a designation that was expected from him come the postseason. However, Julius Randle would have also been worthy of high expectations given his regular season play, but hasn’t played up to his standards in returning from a late-season ankle injury. Fortunately for the Knicks, guys like RJ Barrett and Josh Hart have been stepping up.
After a mediocre showing in Cleveland, Barrett has bounced back with 17 and 26 points respectively in the Knicks last two games against the Cavs. Meanwhile, Hart is averaging 13.5 points and 55% 3-point shooting for the series, while posting a 19 point effort in Game 4. Hart has also been massive on the defensive end and in hustling for loose balls, being a constant spark of energy for this Knicks squad.
Overall, the Knicks have put themselves in a great position to win this series against the Cavs and advance in the 2023 NBA Playoffs. With that being said, here are three bold predictions for the Knicks in Game 5 against the Cavs with a chance to close out the series.
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*Stats via ESPN
Julius Randle breaks out for the New York Knicks
After averaging a career-high 25.1 points per game this season for the Knicks, Randle has not displayed that scoring prowess through four games in the 2023 NBA Playoffs. A lot of that can be attributed to the fact he was out since March 29th with an ankle injury before the playoffs began, and he is still working back into playing form. However, he hasn’t shown any signs of laboring on that ankle, and he actually started the series better than he has played in the last two games. He made three fields goals total in both Game 3 and Game 4, only scoring 7 points in 27 minutes in the latter. Going back to Cleveland, Julius Randle is going to break out of his slump and score 30 points against the Cavs.
Randle has been fortunate enough that his teammates have picked up the slack, and his current slump couldn’t be coming at a better time for a Knicks team that is up 3-1. The pressure for him to perform will be lesser in Game 5 given his teammates’ performance, although that will only motivate him more. With a chance to advance in the 2023 NBA Playoffs, Randle will want to put his stamp on this first round matchup and give a signature performance. Knicks fans will rejoice in Game 5, as Randle will return to form and score 30 points in a scorcher against the Cavaliers.
Josh Hart hits 5 3-pointers against the Cleveland Cavaliers
Josh Hart saw his most minutes in the series in Game 4, and he did not waste the opportunity. He had a series-high scoring effort for himself, as his 19 points supplemented his 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks. Although it was his worst 3-point shooting output of the series, Hart hit another one from long range to contribute to his 55% shooting from beyond the arc through four games. In Game 5, Hart is going to build off his strong performance and earn 40 minutes again, possessing the confidence to put up more shots from deep. This will result in 5 3-pointers made for Hart in a Game 5 matchup.
Ever since Josh Hart was acquired at the trade deadline this NBA season, he has made a major impact in the Knicks locker room. It was clear he would mesh with Jalen Brunson, as the two were teammates at Villanova and won a National Championship together. However, he has fit in seamlessly with the rest of the roster, and it has been on full display in the 2023 NBA Playoffs. He has also proven to be a crowd favorite, as Madison Square Garden has erupted at key plays from Hart in this series. Despite the game being in Cleveland, Knicks fans will continue their infatuation with Hart after he drills 5 3-pointers in Game 5.
The Knicks hold the Cavs under 80 points again
In Game 3, the Knicks held the Cavs under 80 points in a 99-79 victory. This was the first time in this year’s NBA season that a team was held under 80 points in regulation, an incredible feat by the New York defense. In total, they have held the Cavs to 94 points per game in this series, hounding them for 48 minutes on that side of the ball. They will put together another stellar defensive outing in Game 5, matching their effort from Game 3; the Cavs will not reach 80 points.
Holding a team to under 80 points requires an extreme attention to detail on defense and non-stop intensity. If any team can do it twice, it would be a team coached by Tom Thibodeau, as he made a mark as a coach that requires extreme dedication and effort from his players. It has shown in this series, and with a 3-1 lead, don’t expect the Knicks to let up anytime soon. Game 5 will be another strong defensive effort from the Knicks, so much so that they hold the Cavs to under 80 points for the second time in this series.