Leading up to the highly anticipated first-round playoff matchup between the New York Knicks and the Cavaliers, there was a lot of chatter about each team’s second unit. New York has the clear bench depth advantage, but Caris LeVert claimed that Cleveland has the “best second unit” in the league.
Yes, LeVert is obligated to say things like that considering that he is part of that second unit, but that’s a take that came back to bite him in New York’s 101-97 Game 1 win. LeVert himself was disappointing as he finished with only three points (1-of-7), one rebound, and one assist, but the Cavaliers bench as a whole was outmatched.
The Knicks’ second unit outscored the Cavaliers, 37-14. In his playoff debut, Josh Hart posted a monster 17-point, 10-rebound double-double. Obi Toppin added nine points and four rebounds while Isaiah Hartenstein finished with eight points and five rebounds.
Josh Hart, Knicks bench dominates Cavaliers in massive Game 1 playoff victory
Here’s Caris LeVert’s full quote about his thoughts on Cleveland’s depth:
"“It’s important to control the second unit when we come in,” LeVert said after Thursday’s practice. “Obviously, they have a really good second unit. We’ve been hearing that all week.“We feel like we have the best second unit in the NBA — with how we push the ball, how we share the ball, how we defend, our length and size. It’ll be fun to go up against those guys and really see where we’re at.”"
Yikes. If Game 1 was any indication of where the Cavaliers’ bench is at, Cleveland’s in trouble. It’s still far too early to count the Cavs out, but Saturday’s win was a great example of why bench depth is so important in the playoffs.
It’s important to note that Immanuel Quickley, a finalist for Sixth Man of the Year, was a non-factor for the Knicks. He finished with only three points (0-of-5), three rebounds, and two assists in 24 minutes. If even a couple of his shots would’ve fallen, that would’ve made a big difference for New York in a game that went down to the wire. Fans have seen how good IQ has been, so don’t expect him to be disappointing throughout the whole series.
Donovan Mitchell is a flame thrower in the playoffs, but even his 38 points weren’t enough to give Cleveland the win. Knicks fans can thank New York’s bench for that. This is only the beginning, though. Let’s see what else this group can do.