Knicks’ Jalen Brunson Faces New Phase of Rivalry With Cavs’ Donovan Mitchell

Jalen Brunson, New York Knicks

Getty Jalen Brunson, New York Knicks

When the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers face off against each other in the first round of the NBA playoffs, Jalen Brunson and Donovan Mitchell will be reigniting their playoff rivalry.

Last season, the two-star guards went to battle as the Dallas Mavericks and Utah Jazz went toe-to-toe in the Western Conference, with Brunson’s team winning the series and progressing deeper into the playoffs.

This season, the two scoring guards will see each other once again, only this time, they will both be surrounded by fresh new talent, although only one of them will make it out of the first round. According to Jonathan Macri, who was writing in an April 5 edition of his Knicks Film School newsletter, both Brunson and Mitchell will be renewing their rivalry once the postseason gets underway.

“One year ago, Jalen Brunson ended any doubt that he could be a lead guard on a good team when he decimated Donovan Mitchell and the Jazz, essentially putting the final nail in the coffin of that era of Utah basketball,” Macri wrote. “Then, a few months later, it looked all but certain that the two would become teammates. When that didn’t happen, they merely continued their rivalry with renewed vigor.”

According to StatMuse, the Knicks have defeated the Cavaliers in three out of their four contests this season, meaning Mitchell has only tasted victory over Brunson once since being eliminated from the 2022 playoffs.

Luka Doncic Missed Jalen Brunson

When speaking to the media on April 4, former teammate Luka Doncic admitted that he misses playing with Brunson, as the Mavericks have struggled to replicate their success of last season despite adding Kyrie Irving in February.

“I think you don’t see that chemistry that we had before. I mean, especially last year. I think that chemistry was at the top with everybody but, you know, chemistry builds and not right away, so it’s a long process,” Doncic said. “(I miss him) A lot. I mean, amazing guy, amazing player. For sure.”

Doncic, 24, has been exceptional for Dallas this year, contributing 32.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 8.1 assists per game while shooting 49.8% from the field and 34.7% from three-point range.

Tom Thibodeau Credits Jalen Brunson’s Impact

During an April 4 press conference, Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau spoke glowingly of the impact Brunson has made since joining the Knickerbockers, crediting his team-first work ethic. 

“I think the impact that he’s made has been terrific and I think that if you really dig into his numbers you’ll see how much he’s improved,” Thibodeau said. “He’s made a quantum leap this year…he has all the attributes that you value…and he always puts the team first. The best thing is the way he connects with people. He’s been great with all his teammates. He sets a great example each day in practice. You couldn’t ask for anything more.”

The Knicks will face off against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, April 5, as they continue to charge toward the finish line on their regular season, where they can then turn their attention toward a potential seven-game series against the Cavaliers.
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