Julius Randle Eyes Game 1 Return: Report

Julius Randle, New York Knicks

Getty Julius Randle of the New York Knicks reacts against the Atlanta Hawks.

New York Knicks All-Star forward Julius Randle is targeting to return for Game 1 of the NBA Playoffs first-round series against the Cleveland Cavaliers, according to Hoops Wire’s Sam Amico.

“Multiple sources have told Hoops Wire that Randle is targeting a return for Game 1. But for now, his status appears to be very much in limbo,” Amico wrote.

Randle sustained a left ankle sprain on March 29 against the Miami Heat. He is scheduled to be re-evaluated on April 13, Thursday, according to SNY’s Ian Begley.

Game 1 is scheduled on Saturday at 6 p.m. in Cleveland.

Randle showed up in the Knicks’ season finale against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday without a protective walking boot — a good sign that he’s on track to recovery.

New York coach Tom Thibodeau then said Randle has begun doing non-contact drills.

“Yeah, just the next step, following the protocol progression,” Thibodeau told reporters before their loss to the Pacers. “So making good, steady progress.”

“He’s shooting, but no contact or anything like that, but he’s doing well overall,” he added.

The Knicks beat the Cavaliers 130-116 sans Randle in their final regular-season meeting behind Jalen Brunson‘s career-high 48 points. Randle averaged 23.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists in their first three matchups this season.

Josh Hart Prepares for Tough Donovan Mitchell Matchup

The Knicks’ biggest headache in the first round of the NBA playoffs will be Donovan Mitchell, who is averaging 31.8 points, 7.5 assists and 4.8 rebounds against them.

The Cavaliers star hit 22 3-pointers on a staggering 46.8% accuracy in four games against the Knicks this season. Mitchell’s 5.5 3s per game against the Knicks this season is his 2nd-most (tied with his former team Utah Jazz) against all NBA teams.

Knicks’ midseason acquisition Josh Hart could be the key to slowing down Mitchell.

In the Knicks’ final meeting against the Cavaliers — Hart’s first meeting with Mitchell as a Knick — Hart limited Mitchell to just six points in 18.2 partial possessions.

Mitchell’s only field goals against Hart came from behind the arc, going 2 for 3. He missed his two attempts inside the arc against Hart and committed one turnover against two assists.

“The challenge is to make him not score the [expletive] ball,” Hart told Newsday. “That’s the challenge. In the league, you have guys that no matter what you do, no matter how good the defense is, they’re gonna make shots. That’s what happens, especially when you sign up to be guarding the best players.”

“I don’t think [Grimes] got really discouraged over anything that he was making or myself. Once you do that, you lose, you know what I mean? Sometimes you just gotta make it tough for them, and sometimes they’re gonna have games where they score 45 efficiently, and games they’re gonna score 25 inefficiently. You have to take the good with the bad, and that’s the biggest thing with us. We just gotta make it difficult for him,” Hart added.

Mitchell Robinson is Excited about his Playoff Debut

Mitchell Robinson will make his first postseason appearance after skipping the Knicks’ 2021 playoff run with a fractured right foot.

Robinson was adamant they have what it takes to counter the Cavaliers’ twin towers, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley.

But more than his rebounding and defensive prowess, his role as the link of their defense is as critical.

“There’ll be more communication really [to] make sure our guys [are] in the right spots,” Robinson said.

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