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The Cleveland Cavaliers trail the New York Knicks 3 games to 1 in the opening round of this year’s NBA playoffs. The deficit puts Cleveland on the brink of elimination in what would be a disappointing end to an otherwise exciting season.

But it ain’t over yet.

The biggest problem for the Cavs has been scoring. Through four games their defense has only given up 98 points per contest. That’s over 8 points less than the regular season – which was good enough for first place in the NBA.

So the question becomes, how can Cleveland bounce back Wednesday night?


1. Unlock Donovan Mitchell

Cleveland Cavaliers v New York Knicks - Game Four Source:Getty

It’s no secret that the Cavaliers won’t beat the Knicks, or any other playoff team, without their best player playing like their best player. Mitchell is one of the most prolific postseason scorers of all time, but you wouldn’t know it by watching this series. New York has mixed up their defense and done a good job of keeping him out the paint. But that’s playoff basketball. If Mitchell doesn’t catch fire Wednesday night – either scoring or racking up assists – then the Cavs are cooked.

2. J.B. Bickerstaff Makes a Difference

Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks Source:Getty

If the Cavs are to turn this series around then coach J.B. Bickerstaff will need to be a major reason why. So far this series he appears to be overmatched, out-game-planned, and flat-out outcoached by Knicks HC Tom Thibodeau. The player rotation is sporadic and incoherent. His bigs are getting manhandled. His team, by in large, has appeared to be unprepared. If that doesn’t stop then the Cavs will lose this thing in 5.

3. Bigs Play Bigger

Houston Rockets v Cleveland Cavaliers Source:Getty

For all the excitement about this young Cavaliers team, a lot of it stems from the potential second-year 7-footer Evan Mobley. After finishing the regular season in third place for Defensive Player of the Year, that youthfulness has also, unfortunately, shown up in his first playoff series. Jarrett Allen has been a defensive anchor all year, but in the last two games against New York he has 9 total rebounds and 2 blocks. In the regular season he averaged almost 9 rebounds per game.

4. Darius Garland Plays Like an All Star

New York Knicks v Cleveland Cavaliers Source:Getty

Darius Garland has been inconsistent throughout the series. The only good thing about that is that when he’s on he’s been very, very good. But on the flip side… you get the point. Through four games Garland has scored 17, 32, 10 and 23 points. He’s shooting just 41.8% from the field, down from 46.2% during the regular season. His assists and free throw % are also down, as the Knicks have been doing a decent job of keeping him contained. Hopefully, in game 5 Garland can get to his spaces and lead the Cavs to a victory. 

5. Bench Players Have to Produce

Cleveland Cavaliers v New York Knicks - Game Four Source:Getty

Coming into the series we all knew the bench production edge would likely go to the Knicks, and boy has that played through. In fact, the Knicks bench has been so good that they haven’t been needing to rely on Julius Randle, who’s one of their top 2 best players. If I’m J.B. I’d tell my starters to drink plenty of Gatorade, because they’re likely going to play a vast majority of the minutes on Wednesday.