Tom Thibodeau Issues Strong Statement on Josh Hart After Knicks Beat Cavs in Game 1

Josh Hart, New York Knicks

Getty Josh Hart #3 of the New York Knicks and Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Cleveland Cavaliers dive for a loose ball.

Josh Hart commented “[expletive] you” on Donovan Mitchell‘s Instagram post then he backed it up with a phenomenal playoff debut.

Hart led the New York Knicks‘ bench in a dominant performance as they outscored their Cavaliers’ counterparts 37-14. The seven-year veteran guard had a double-double, delivering 17 points and 10 rebounds in 32 minutes off the bench.

“That’s what I love about him,” New York coach Tom Thibodeau said of Hart during his postgame interview. “When I say playmaker, I’m not talking about a traditional sense of the past playmakers with the game leads. So if you need a big shot, he can provide that; if you need a big rebound, he can provide that; if you need a stop defensively, he can provide that; he goes for a loose ball, that’s what he is. He’s a playmaker. He’s gonna make hustle plays, make tough plays. He’s a great competitor. And he just plays to win. There’s no agenda other than winning.”

Hart hit the go-ahead 3-pointer for a 95-93 lead with 1:49 left after the Cleveland Cavaliers briefly took the lead on Jarrett Allen’s putback.

Jalen Brunson took over from his Villanova teammate as the Knicks took a 101-97 Game 1 victory, their first playoff win on the road in a decade.

Jalen Brunson Was Clutch

After three early fouls limited Jalen Brunson in the second half, he returned with a vengeance after the halftime break.

Brunson took over in the second half, delivering 12 in the third quarter, where the Knicks built a 78-70 cushion. Then Donovan Mitchell and the Cavaliers stormed back with a 9-0 run in the fourth quarter and briefly took the lead 93-92.

Brunson calmed the Knicks under pressure with two clutch baskets that gave them a four-point breather, 99-95 in the final 35 seconds.

“You just got to stay positive, and you can’t really worry about the thing that’s not going your way,” said Brunson during his postgame interview on his calming leadership. “It’s all about how you respond to situations like that. Stay focused on the task at hand, and I think we did a good job of staying focused. Now we can do better. We can close out that fourth quarter a little better. And they had a decent run that put them up by one. It’s always a learning process, and I’m just happy we can learn from this one.”

Brunson finished with 27 points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals.

Julius Randle Returns With Aplomb

Julius Randle made a sensational return from an ankle injury as he logged in a double-double in his first game after a 17-day hiatus.

Randle finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in 33 minutes.

“I prepared myself mentally. I knew it was going to be tough just coming back with my conditioning and stuff like that, but it was a good win for us,” Randle told MSG Network’s Rebecca Haarlow after the game. “[Knicks associate head coach] Johnnie Bryant put me through the wringer over this past week, and he really made it tough for me. He prepared me for this, and I’m good to go.”


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