For the first time in a decade, the New York Knicks won a playoff series.
The Knicks defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 on Wednesday, 106-95, to win their series, 4-1. It’s also just their second series victory since 2000.
New York led by as many as 18 in the third quarter, but Cleveland cut it to a six-point deficit with just over eight minutes to go, but that’s as close as they got. New York responded with a 6-0 run to get back up a dozen, and by the time Cleveland cut it to single digits again, it was too late.
New York made the playoffs in the 2020-21 season but fell to the Atlanta Hawks in five games. The following season was a disappointment as they missed out on the postseason for the eighth time in nine years.
However, Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson have carried the Knicks all year. In the regular season, Randle put up 25.1 points and 10.0 rebounds per game, earning his second All-Star nod through a love-hate relationship Knicks fans have with him.
But Brunson has been maybe the best free agent signing of the NBA this season. The guard came to New York after spending his first four seasons with the Dallas Mavericks and put up the best numbers of his career. His 24.0 points, 41.6 three-point percentage, and 6.2 assists in the regular seasons were all career-highs. He averaged 24.0 in the series as well.
The victory did not come without a big blow, as Randle re-aggravated an ankle sprain that kept him out of the Knicks’ final five games of the regular season. Randle struggled this series, only averaging 14.8 points per game in the first four games of the series (he had 13 when he left the game in the second half).
New York knocked out Donovan Mitchell and crew despite an aggressive pursue of the guard in the offseason. The Knicks were the favorite to land the New York native from the Utah Jazz, and Mitchell has said he thought he was going to Manhattan up until he was traded to Cleveland – New York ultimately backed out when they felt the compensation was too high.
But R.J. Barrett, whom Utah wanted in return, played a vital role in knocking out the player he was almost traded for. The 22-year-old, who’s received criticism all year after a four-year, $100 million extension, averaged 22.0 points in the final three games of the series – he scored just seven in Game 1. Brunson led the Knicks with 23 points.
In replace of Randle, Obi Toppin scored 12 points, and Mitchell Robinson was also a menace on the glass, scoring 13 points and grabbing 18 rebounds.
The Knicks will face the winner of the Milwaukee Bucks-Miami Heat series – Miami, the eight seed, is on the verge of upsetting the to-seeded Bucks, as they lead their series, 3-1.
Now New York awaits their opponent for a trip at the Eastern Conference Finals, which they have not made in 23 years.