Donovan Mitchell didn’t come to the Knicks via the trade market last summer, but it certainly looks like the Westchester player will be the postseason opener against his hometown team.
The four-time All-Star scored 42 points for the Cavaliers on Friday night, but Jalen Brunson scored a career-high 48 for the winning Knicks in a first-round playoff preview between the 4th and 5th-place teams in the East. won. meeting.
“It’s full circle,” Mitchell said following the Knicks’ 130-116 victory in Cleveland on Friday. It will be — if it is.”
The Knicks, who face the Wizards in the Garden on Sunday night, entered Saturday 2.5 games ahead of the sixth-placed Nets and 4.5 games ahead of Heat 7 and the play-in tournament.
The Cavaliers are almost certainly locked in the No. 4 seed, 3.5 games behind the No. 3 76ers and 3 games behind the Knicks.
Both teams were without key players on Friday, with the Knicks missing Julius Randle (with a sprained ankle) and 2022 All-Star center Jarrett Allen and forward Isaac Okoro without the Cavaliers.
“I think it’s even more important because this is the team that we’re probably going to see,” Mitchell said. But it’s still the same competition, the same competitiveness. They played well, they did a lot of things well, they played together in different ways. We will be better.”
Of course, the Knicks pursued Mitchell, 26, working in the Mets’ front office last summer, but he moved from the Jazz to the Cavaliers in September.
“I like to try and get away from this summer. I just happen to be here and I’m glad I’m here,” Mitchell said Friday night. I’m sure you’ll be asked many times, but for being part of this group, being part of this team, and personally, I wouldn’t wish it any other way.
“It’s a story [book] Ending — The story, not the ending. Being able to play in the playoffs is really special to me, and I think it’s close and important. [series] in front of friends and family. A team I grew up watching.To the guy who’s the assistant coach over there [Johnnie Bryant] You’ve basically told me everything I know at this point. So it’s great. Excited to take on the challenge. “
When asked what he learned from playing the Knicks late in the season, Mitchell added: First and foremost, some players looked at their physical level, the level of every possession. “
In fact, the Knicks (45-33) had 16 offensive rebounds in the game, including Mitchell Robinson’s 9, and trailed the Cavaliers to 14 in the fourth quarter after going 102-3, including a team-record 47. reduced to points. during open period.
Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau said Josh Hart was a “monster” in Friday’s game and was spearheading a late-game defensive crackdown.
Mitchell also believed the Knicks played at a noticeably faster pace with Obi Toppin starting in place of the injured Randle.
“I think I will learn and grow a lot from this,” Mitchell said. “The playoffs are just around the corner, but we’re taking control of our destiny and going from there. Maybe he’ll see them in two weeks, so this will be a good movie session for us.” prize.”
Mitchell was also impressed by Branson’s performance, but hardly surprised.
“I’ve seen this for years. I saw the same thing last year,” he said. “He’s sly. He can get to his place in many different ways. The biggest one was he had [nearly] 50, he had nine assists. That’s what stands out.
“Fifty is great and takes a lot of work, but getting everyone else involved is what I got the most.”