History on Knicks’ Side as They Gun for 3-1 Lead Against Cavs

Madison Square Garden, Knicks

Getty Madison Square Garden.

Riding high on a defensive masterclass in Game 3 and their raucous, passionate crowd, the New York Knicks suddenly turned from the heavy underdogs to the overwhelming favorites in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs against the higher-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers.

History is on the Knicks’ side as they gun for a commanding 3-1 series lead.

On top of dominating the Cavaliers in the regular season, the Knicks also have their numbers in the playoffs. They are 10-2 all-time in playoff games against the Cavaliers– their best record against any team they have faced 10 times in the playoffs, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

The Knicks were the first team this season to hold an opponent under 80 points in the entire season following their resounding 99-79 Game 3 victory.

It’s their first 2-1 lead in a playoff series since 2013.

The Cavaliers dropped 24-2 when holding opponents under 100 points this season, with both losses coming at the hands of the Knicks.

Jalen Brunson led the Knicks’ charge, who had 21 points and six assists in Game 3. He became the first Knick since Patrick Ewing to log in at least 20 points and five assists in two consecutive playoff games.

Knicks’ 6th Man

“There’s nothing that comes close to it,” Brunson said of the loud and proud 19,812 sold-out Madison Square Garden crowd in Game 3.

“It’s definitely shaking,” added Obi Toppin, who provided a solid 15-minute off the bench with eight points, three rebounds, four steals, one assist and one steal.

“It’s the Garden, man! What can I say? It was loud. It was fun to play in, man! As a basketball player, you grew up thinking of moments like this. It was electric in there,” said RJ Barrett, who broke out of his slump and dropped 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting.

Even Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff admitted that the Knicks’ crowd rattled his young team.

“I think early on it was the nerves,” Bickerstaff said after the Game 3 loss. “As the game progressed, it was about trust more than anything. Then we stopped trusting & doing the right thing. We stopped trusting & doing the right thing.”

“Give [the Knicks] credit,” Bickerstaff added. “They made the adjustment. During the game, they found their footing. They got comfortable and rode the momentum of the home crowd.”

The Knicks’ Sixth Man is expected to give a lift to the home team anew in Sunday’s Game 4 matinee.

Flowers for Derrick Rose

Former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy and ex-Knicks point guard Mark Jackson debated on the ESPN/ABC broadcast in Game 3 whether playing Derrick Rose during garbage time was appropriate.

The crowd begged for it. New York coach Tom Thibodeau obliged.

Rose, who was a catalyst in the Knicks playoff run two seasons ago, became their human victory cigar.

Despite getting removed from the rotation in early December, Rose remained professional. The Knicks did not move him by the trade deadline despite interest from other playoff teams.

“The guy has been around. He’s been great for us,” Thibodeau said of Rose, the oldest player on the Knicks roster. “Particularly, we’re a very young team. And to have a guy like that around, it’s invaluable.

Rose has appeared in only 27 games this season, averaging career lows of 5.6 points and 1.7 assists.

“So even though he’s not playing, he’s had a great impact on all our guys,” Thibodeau added. “So that’s great. The best thing about our fans is they have a great appreciation for that, appreciation for all he’s done throughout his career. And it says a lot about Derrick. Whatever role you ask him to play, he embraces it and wants to be great at it. And he’s always cared about the team the most and winning.”

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