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What to watch for in Game 4 of Cleveland Cavaliers vs. New York Knicks

The Cavs’ season might be on the line.

2023 NBA Playoffs - Cleveland Cavaliers v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The Cleveland Cavaliers stare down the barrel of a 3-1 deficit if they can not take care of business and win Game 4 against the New York Knicks. Here is what to watch for.

Darius Garland needs to bounce back

Just one game after scoring 32 points in a breakout performance, Darius Garland delivered one of the worst shooting nights of his career. DG shot just 4-21 from the floor in his first road playoff game under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden.

The postseason has been a mixed bag for the 23-year-old. He has been unusually sporadic, shooting just 37.3% from the floor so far in this series. Garland’s typical mastery of the floor has been missing, recording 12 total turnovers to just 11 assists through three games.

Garland is not the only player in this series finding it hard to score. The Knicks and Cavs are two of only three teams in the postseason scoring below 100 points per game (the Brooklyn Nets are the other). This back-and-forth rock fight between two low-scoring teams has been begging for someone to break free and get rolling offensively.

The Cavaliers managed to generate quality shots for Garland despite his poor shooting in Game 3. His first four three-point attempts were open looks, yet none of them dropped. These are all attempts that Garland should feel more than happy taking again in Game 4 if they are presented to him.

With Cleveland’s supporting cast shooting 12-46 (26%) from deep, the pressure is on Garland and Donovan Mitchell to carry the load. The Cavs are in desperate need of their floor general and if he does not show up in Game 4, it could be a long flight back to Cleveland.

Limit turnovers, protect the glass

Physicality and extra-effort plays have been cited as the difference makers in this series. Thus far, the winner of the rebounding battle has won each game. And limiting turnovers has been just as successful.

Game 3 was a disaster in terms of protecting the ball for Cleveland. It was the only time all season they committed more turnovers (20) than assists (16). This was ultimately a backbreaker for the Cavs with New York scoring 28 points off of their turnovers.

Scoring just 79 points in a game does not leave you with much room for error. Even though Cleveland scored more second-chance points and only narrowly lost the rebounding battle in Game 3, their ill-advised turnovers likely cost them the game even more so than their horrid shooting.

The Cavaliers will have to clean this up heading into a must-win Game 4. It is unclear if the rest of the series will remain an uphill battle offensively but they can not afford to lose possessions while granting easy scoring opportunities to their opponent.

As for protecting the glass, keeping Mitchell Robinson and the Knicks from snowballing second-chance points will remain a point of emphasis. Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley have done a better job than they get credit for, leading all rebounders in the series. But New York’s easiest path to upsetting the Cavs continues to be winning on the margins, making the rebounding battle paramount.

Allen and Mobley have been faced with one of the most physical frontcourts in the NBA. Robinson had 5 offensive boards in Game 3 while Allen had just 5 rebounds overall. Keeping the beast in the cage and rebounding at the rate they did in the previous two games will be necessary for Allen and Mobley to set up their team for success.