NCAA Tournament, Knicks, Nets, Rose

Knicks Take 3-1 Lead Behind Another Defensive Masterpiece

Following a dominant, defensive oriented victory in game three, the Knicks continued their defensive ways into game four as they beat the Cavaliers 102-93. New York now has a chance to win the series and move on to the second round Wednesday night back in Cleveland.

Knicks’ Defense Strikes Again

Somehow after holding the Cavs to a mere 79 points in game three, the Knicks played nearly as good of defense in game four. New York did give up 14 more points in game four, however the discrepancy in many key defensive statistics ended up being far more favorable for the Knicks in game four.

The rebound difference was an enormous advantage for New York as they won 47-33. Interestingly though, New York only had four more defensive rebounds than Cleveland, however the offensive rebounding margin was a whopping 17-7. This discrepancy was in large part due to the impact of Mitchell Robinson, as he had seven offensive rebounds himself. Robinson's hustle this series has been incredible to watch, as even in a tough matchup against Jarrett Allen, he has completely outworked and outplayed him in these first four games.

The Knicks also had more steals, blocks and forced turnovers than Cleveland. Isaiah Hartenstein chipped in two steals and two blocks himself. Starting due to the shoulder injury to Quentin Grimes, Josh Hart had two steals. Along with the dominant rebounding effort, Robinson had two blocks as well.

Although the statistical differences were impressive for New York, the most impressive part of their defense was the job done on Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell has really been the only Cavalier to play well in the first three games, but that would be far from the case in game four.

Mitchell scored a mere 11 points on only 5-18 from the field and 0-4 from the three point line. He did have four rebounds and five assists, but he also accounted for six of the Cavaliers' 12 turnovers. The Knicks' defenders harassed Mitchell all game long, with Hart leading the charge. Miles McBride also provided New York some really solid defensive minutes on Mitchell in the five minutes he played.

With Mitchell being the main catalyst of this Cleveland offense, it is almost impossible for them to come out victorious when Mitchell plays this poorly. That proved to be the case, as the main players outside of Mitchell actually played fairly well on offense.

Darius Garland had 23 points and 10 assists, while Evan Mobley had 12 points and three assists. Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen each chipped in 14 points. None of these performances really mattered though, as New York did such an incredible job against Mitchell all game long.

RJ Barrett Steps Up

After a disappointing first two games of the series, RJ Barrett has risen to the occasion ever since the series moved to New York. Barrett put together another stellar performance has he had 26 points on 9-18 from the field, while also getting to the free throw line 13 times and hitting eight of them.

With Julius Randle still struggling to round back into form from the ankle injury, the Knicks have needed this exact type of performance from Barrett. He was aggressive in attacking the paint all game, which explains the staggering amount of free throw attempts.

Barrett understood that with Randle struggling, he needed to take some of the load off Jalen Brunson. Brunson had a magnificent game with 29 points, six rebounds and six assists. Because of his play, most of the defensive attention was paid to Brunson.

After the game, Barrett said "I think that a lot of times they were doubling Jalen [Brunson], so I was able to get the ball and kind of make the play. I just wanted to continue to make the right plays, make the right reads. Just do whatever to help the team."

This mindset was portrayed by the entire team all of game four. Hart also stepped up in a huge way for Quentin Grimes as he played 40 minutes. He scored 19 points, grabbed seven rebounds and spent the majority of the game locking down Mitchell.

Tom Thibodeau had to make the difficult decision to sit Julius Randle for the entire fourth quarter, but it proved to be the correct one. Clearly Randle is still struggling with the ankle injury, so it was Obi Toppin who got the call for most of the final period. This personnel change is what opened up more opportunities for Barrett, and it proved to be a game deciding decision by Thibodeau.

The Knicks will now have a chance to close this series out Wednesday night back in Cleveland.

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