New York has been the much better linked, cohesive squad through four games.
THE NEW YORK You can try to take the ball away from a top scorer, demonstrate various coverages, and go after them on the other end. Josh Hart is a jack-of-all-trades role player, thus game preparing for him can be challenging.
J.B. Bickerstaff, the coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, stated this on Sunday morning at Madison Square Garden just before his team’s first-round afternoon matchup against the New York Knicks. “I think what he does at an elite level is he impacts winning,” Bickerstaff said.
According to Bickerstaff, Hart always knows how to assist his team: “Some nights it’s taking charges, some nights it’s making shots.” In order to respond appropriately, the Cavaliers must “understand where he hurts you the most”: Put a body on him to prevent him from grabbing offensive rebounds, handle the ball well, and enter transition since he always tries to push the ball.
Nobody can prevent a player with the intangibles that Hart possesses from contributing to the game, but Bickerstaff wished for his side to “keep him out of the stat sheet” in Game 4.
That did not occur. In 39 minutes, Hart ended with 18 points, seven rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Donovan Mitchell’s 5-for-18 performance bore all of Hart’s imprints. About midway through the fourth quarter, he finished ahead of Jarrett Allen after grabbing a defensive rebound and going coast to coast. A few minutes later, he saved a chaotic possession by making a turnaround flip shot just as the shot clock was about to run out.When Jalen Brunson was wide open for a three, he grabbed an offensive board.
What are your thoughts on Josh Hart? After the 102-93 victory, New York’s head coach Tom Thibodeau stated. “Once again, it’s one difficult play after another. Excellent defense, a big offensive rebound, and a tremendous shot. He’s just a winner, that man.
Hart, who was traded to the Knicks from Portland in February, isn’t the reason why New York is up 3-1 in the series. But consider if the Cavaliers had acquired him through a trade.
Playing with HART 🌃 pic.twitter.com/6oyE7EGdwC
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) April 23, 2023
With offensive ratings of 102.1, 84.0, and 103.3 points per 100 possessions in its three losses, Cleveland has been much less effective in this series than any other club did during the regular season. Bickerstaff emphasized the value of ball movement and getting to the second side following a Game 3 loss in which the Cavaliers became the first team to score fewer than 80 points in a game this season. In Game 4, Cleveland stagnated much too frequently.
Mitchell took full responsibility for his actions, and he is entitled to some of it as he pounded the ball, started the offense slowly, and forced tough shots. He can make stepback 3s and off-balance, contested pull-ups in isolation, but a healthy shot diet can’t include too many of them.
The four-time All-Star must play more in the manner of Darius Garland. Early in the third quarter, when the Cavaliers went on an 18-7 run to grab the lead, Garland was pressuring the defense to move, making snap judgments, and encouraging his team to play with a quicker halfcourt tempo. But neither Mitchell nor Garland are working in a favorable offensive situation. Cleveland compromises its spacing by having both Allen and Evan Mobley on the floor for a large portion of every game, and the Knicks aren’t overly concerned about its wings spotting up.
Limiting Mitchell was “a full team effort,” according to Hart, who did a great job navigating screens and bugging Mitchell one-on-one. Because the Cavaliers don’t have shooters all over the court and he is aware that there is support behind him, he can defend aggressively.
Hart added, “We want to force him into taking tough 2s and stepback 3s and stuff like that. We want to limit driving lanes, make him see bodies.
Cleveland does not want Brunson, who scored 29 points on 11-for-22 shooting for the game, to become complacent. It blitzed him and gave him a lot of defensive focus. The Knicks anticipated this and have utilized it more effectively than the Cavaliers. This, according to Thibodeau, is the outcome of “everyone being connected together.”
“Everyone has to get to the right spots, then you gotta make the right play and trust the game, trust your reads,” Thibodeau said. “Stop resisting it. Move it to the back side and make plays from there after getting off of it. And that is what it means to win at basketball.
New York should be commended for making that commitment. However, winning basketball is simpler to play when the lineups are balanced at both ends. Attacking close-outs Hart and RJ Barrett, who scored 26 points on 9-for-18 shooting, are dangerous. Despite having a collective 1 for 10 3-point shooting percentage, they were unquestionably beneficial.
The question of who would start and close on the wing in the playoffs loomed as Cleveland piled up wins throughout the regular season despite having two excellent playmakers in the backcourt and two young All-Defense players up front. Bickerstaff pulled Isaac Okoro from the starting lineup on Sunday, two days after doing so with less than three minutes remaining in Game 3. Okoro played 17 minutes despite Caris LeVert replacing him and Cedi Osman receiving some playing time since he is the Cavs’ best defender against Brunson.
Early in the second quarter, Okoro made a sweeping hook over Obi Toppin in addition to a few good drives to the hoop. He offers part of what Hart does at his best. He is a dangerous threat in transition, has excellent rebounding for a 6-foot-5 wing, and, on the right night, will make a few open three-pointers. However, the Knicks don’t really guard him on the perimeter, and at this point in his career, he isn’t exactly a connector for the offense. There isn’t a dependable two-way wing on the Cavaliers’ roster.
Cleveland could play faster, pass the ball around more frequently, and force Mitchell Robinson out of the paint in Game 5 if they were facing elimination. Additionally, it may avoid being outmatched on the boards. Whatever happens in the remaining games of this series, the Knicks have a structural advantage because they have had the kind of roster balance since signing Hart that enables a team to be more than the sum of its parts.
He was a fantastic match for the group, according to Thibodeau.