The Cavs, who currently have the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, are four games up on the No. 5-seeded Knicks. New York has just five games left in the season, so Cleveland would clinch a top-four seed in the conference with a win on Friday night.
“We know it’s a big one, especially for seeding purposes,” Garland said. “We’ll come out aggressive, have that mentality that we always have, knowing that it is a big game for us. We know what we have to do to turn it up. We know what to do going into the game. Just have to lock in mentally and be ready to fight physically.”
Friday’s contest will be the fourth time this season that the Knicks and Cavs will match up. Cleveland won the first meeting between the teams at home, but it lost both matchups at Madison Square Garden.
The Cavs have struggled on the road this season, going just 18-21, so they certainly are hoping that a home game on Friday will allow them to even the season series.
This could also be a first-round series preview, as the Knicks and Cavs would match up if the season ended today. Cleveland is 2.5 games back of the No. 3-seeded Philadelphia 76ers, so it isn’t locked into the No. 4 spot just yet.
“If we do matchup with them in the playoffs, then that’s that, but we just look at it as another game,” Garland said. “We do know the importance of it, though. We know the mentality they’re going to bring, because they’re a little bit behind us. We know what we’re going into.”
Garland and the Cavs will catch a break on Friday night, as the Knicks won’t have All-Star forward Julius Randle in this game. Randle is expected to miss the remainder of the regular season after he suffered a sprained left ankle against the Miami Heat on Wednesday night.
Knicks‘ Julius Randle will miss at least two weeks with a left ankle sprain, team says.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 30, 2023
The NBA playoffs begin on April 15, so Randle could return for Game 1 of the first round if he only needs two weeks to recover.
The NBA playoffs start on April 15.
That means Julius Randle could theoretically return for Game 1 of the first round.
Knicks need to hope that he can. https://t.co/dqngnH9rES
— Peter Dewey (@peterdewey2) March 30, 2023
The Cavs and Knicks played an extremely close game in their last matchup, with New York pulling out a 105-103 victory.
It will be interesting to see if the Knicks can compete against the Cavs with Randle out of the lineup on Friday.
These two teams are going to be extremely familiar with each other before a potential playoff series, and they have been linked since the offseason because of the Donovan Mitchell trade.
New York had been rumored to be interested in acquiring Mitchell, but the Utah Jazz eventually sent him to the Cavs, leaving New York empty handed.
Garland seems to want to set a good tone for the postseason by taking care of business in this game.