It’s here. The playoffs. Here’s some staff predictions for the series.
Chris Manning: I’m going to go with the Cavs in 7. The Knicks don’t have the same punch if Julius Randle isn’t healthy or plays and is limited. And I think the Cavs are just better. There are pressure points New York can hit Cleveland on, but the Cavs should win even if it’s a grind.
Tony Pesta: Cavs win in 5 if Garland/Mobley play up to expectations. Cavs in 6 if one of Garland/Mobley has an underwhelming debut
Jackson Flickinger: Cavs in 5. The Knicks aren’t equipped to expose the Cavs flaws. They don’t have the defensive personnel to challenge the bigs without completely selling out to do so. On the other end, the Cavs should be able to make life difficult for Brunson if Okoro is completely back. New York’s offense could stall out without a fully healthy Julius Randle provided the Cavs can clean the glass.
Corey Walsh: Cavaliers in 6. I feel the Cavaliers have two of the best three players in the series (Donovan Mitchell, Jalen Brunson, and Darius Garland) which should really make life a struggle for a Knicks team that if Randle is not 100% could really hurt in the late stretches of games. I think while I do like the depth of the Knicks more than the Cavaliers at this stage in the season it should help that the starting lineup is strong enough to buoy bad bench efforts like it has all season.
Leah Nemeth: The Cavs remarkably have one thing the Knicks do not, and that’s health. Sans one questionable Julius Randle, the Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley tandem is primed to be the X-factor in this series, pestering the Knicks on both sides of the ball.
Having blasted the Cavs in their last three matchups of the season however, the Knicks will not go easy into the night. Jalen Brunson, clicking on all cylinders, will surely make things interesting. In Donovan Mitchell we trust, playing at home on both floors through the series, I’d expect some grind-it-out thrillers are in store — lucky us. But again, health. Cavs in 6.
Imari McPherson: Cavs win in six games. Cavs take 2-0 series lead, but trade wins to close Knicks out in New York for Game 6. Donovan Mitchell averages 30-plus and Evan Mobley averages at least 17 points and 7 rebounds per game. Cavs hold Julius Randle mostly in check and Jalen Brunson is the Knicks’ leading scorer for the series.
Mike Anguilano: Cavs in six. The Knicks are a tough team, have an efficient offense, and have been galvanized by Jalen Brunson. But the Cavs, ultimately, are the more talented team with Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, and Evan Mobley as a three-headed monster. Jarrett Allen and Isaac Okoro were unavailable the last time these two teams played, and having their interior and perimeter defense will be a difference-maker. New York is capable of stealing a few games, especially if they crush the Cavs on the glass or catch them on a cold-shooting night, but Cleveland will prevail into the second round.