A trailing Jarrett Allen committed a flagrant foul after undercutting Randle during his block attempt, causing the Knicks All-Star to fall hard on his back with 2:22 left and the Cavaliers leading by 21. After sinking the free throw, Randle went straight to the locker room.
The scary scene brought back memories of Derrick Rose’s first ACL injury in Chicago in 2012 when Thibodeau left him in on the floor with the Bulls up by 12 with 1:22 left during their first-round series opener against the Philadelphia 76ers.
“It’s playoffs,” New York coach Tom Thibodeau said during his postgame interview when asked about Allen’s flagrant foul on Randle. “I saw a quick replay, but I want to see the tape before I comment.”
The big question was why Randle and Jalen Brunson, the Knicks’ stars, were still on the floor with the game already beyond reach.
“Actually, we’re going to sub Julius out, but he wanted to stay more for a couple of possessions just to find a rhythm,” Thibodeau said.
Randle corroborated Thibodeau’s explanation.
“Yeah, at that point, I was just trying to get my legs under me, get a little rhythm, but I’ll be fine,” Randle said during his postgame interview.
Randle shot poorly for the second straight game since his return from an ankle injury. He was 8-for-20 from the field after going 7-for-20 in Game 1.
The series shifts to New York for Games 3 and 4 beginning on Friday.
Cavaliers Walk the Talk in Game 2
After the Knicks bullied the Cavaliers to steal Game 1 with a gritty 101-97 win, Darius Garland said they would “hit first and see how the refs react instead of being punched in the face and just lie down” in Game 2.
That’s precisely what the Cavaliers did as they turned the tables around.
Garland led the Cavaliers’ attack with 32 points as they played more physical and got hot from the outside. They hit 14 3-pointers, with Garland hitting 6-of-10 en route to a 32-point performance.
The Knicks had no answer, as they looked lost and bloodied.
Randle got a cut on his arm. Quentin Grimes was left with a bloodied mouth.
Cleveland’s suffocating defense coughed up 17 turnovers from the Knicks, nine in the pivotal second quarter where they staged their breakaway.
For the first time this season, the Cavaliers outrebounded the Knicks 43-36 and controlled the pace of the game.
Jalen Brunson Bottled Up
The Cavaliers relentlessly trapped Jalen Brunson. They gave him different looks, from Isaac Okoro to Cedi Osman and Caris LeVert on defense.
Brunson struggled to shoot 5-of-17 from the floor. The Cavaliers also hunted him down on the switch, with the taller LeVert making him work doubly hard on defense. After a quiet three points in Game 1, LeVert stepped up and scattered 24 points, four rebounds and three assists off the bench.
“I give them credit first and foremost,” Brunson said during his postgame interview. “I think [during] first couple minutes, we had a decent lead or whatever, and then they bounced back. They responded tonight.”
The Knicks zoomed to a 12-4 lead in the game’s first five minutes. But the Cavaliers battled back and took a 25-22 lead at the end of the first quarter on a LeVert 3-pointer.
It was a portent of things to come.
The Cavaliers outscored the Knicks 34-17 in the second quarter to break the game wide open. The Cavaliers led by as many as 29 and the Knicks never recovered.
Donovan Mitchell, who tried to beat the Knicks by himself in Game 1 with 38 points on 30 shots, played decoy this time. Mitchell only scored 17 points but dished out a playoff career-high 13 assists.