The New York Knicks are celebrating their first playoff series win since 2013 with a 106-95 victory in Game 5 over the Cleveland Cavaliers. After splitting the first two games, the Knicks swept the last three games with ease.
The win also marks the first time in a decade that the Knicks have made it to the Eastern Conference semifinals. Jalen Brunson led the Knicks with 23 points, followed by R.J. Barrett with 21 points and an off-the-bench Immanuel Quickley with 19 points.
For the Cavaliers, Donovan Mitchell scored 28 points, while Darius Garland and Caris LeVert added 21 and 17 points, respectively. New York maintained the lead for most of the game, and despite a brief comeback attempt by the Cavs, they closed the game with an 11-point win.
The win came at a cost, as Knicks forward Julius Randle suffered an ankle injury in the first half. Randle’s left ankle landed on LeVert’s foot, causing it to roll hard, and he was forced to leave the game.
Randle fell back down after attempting to get up by himself. Still, he eventually walked off the court on his own. The Knicks listed him as doubtful to return in the second half, and the 28-year-old did not return to play later in the game. The two-time All-Star finished with 13 points, six assists and four rebounds in 16 minutes.
New York will face the Miami Heat in the semifinals, and Randle’s injury is a concern for the team. The Heat stunned the Milwaukee Bucks 128-126 on Wednesday with another impressive performance from Jimmy Butler. Tom Thibodeau’s squad will have to step up their game and find a way to win without Randle if they hope to continue their playoff run.
Knicks without Randle
Despite playing without Randle in the second half, New York still managed to secure the win against Cleveland. Brunson and co dominated the Cavs on the boards by outrebounding them 48-30 and scored 14 second-chance points in the first half alone.
Randle’s ankle injury, which he first sustained in late March, had already impacted his performance in the playoffs. He shot only 32 percent from the field in the series’ first four games. Regardless, Randle’s absence would be a significant loss for the Knicks, as he had played a crucial role throughout the regular season, averaging 25.1 points, 10 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game.
Reflecting on Randle’s previous ankle injury, coach Thibodeau commented that the 6-foot-8 forward had to work tirelessly to recover. Thibodeau also praised the Kentucky alum for his unwavering dedication to the team.
“The thing is, he had to work around the clock to get back,” Thibodeau said after Game 4. “That’s what I love about Julius. He gives you everything that he has. There’s 77 games, he sprains his ankle and then he works like crazy to get back, you know how important he is to the team, but to get back, to get ready to play — our medical people did a great job, but that’s all him.”
Last month, Brunson also said he was not concerned about Randle’s injury. Instead, he supported the forward, saying, “I know Julius is a fighter, he’s a competitor, he’s doing everything he can to make sure he’s ready to go.”