CLEVELAND (AP) — Julius Randle had 19 points and 10 rebounds, Jalen Brunson scored 19 points and the New York Knicks did not trail in the final three quarters of a 109-91 victory over the short-handed Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night.
Immanuel Quickley added 18 points off the bench and RJ Barrett had 16 as the Knicks won the first half of a home-and-home series. It was the teams’ first meeting since New York eliminated Cleveland in five games in the first round of the 2023 playoffs.
“It doesn’t matter what happened in the past, that’s all history,” Brunson said. “The only advantage is when you get back to playing certain teams, you can lean on certain tendencies against them.”
New York native Donovan Mitchell scored 26 points in 29 minutes, and Isaac Okoro and Georges Niang had 11 points apiece for the Cavaliers, who have lost three straight and are 0-3 at home. Cleveland is 2-8 against the Knicks since the start of last season.
Mitchell, who is averaging team highs of 32.0 points and 4.7 assists, returned after sitting out a 125-113 loss to the Pacers with a sore right hamstring Saturday. The four-time All-Star was hurt in a 108-105 home loss to Oklahoma City one night earlier.
“We had to make it as hard on him as we could,” New York coach Tom Thibodeau said. “You want to have a strategy for everybody. That’s why you shouldn’t pace yourself. When that ball goes up, you’ve got to be ready to go.”
The injury-plagued Cavaliers were without point guard Darius Garland (left hamstring strain) for the third straight game and have not had center Jarrett Allen (left ankle bone bruise) in uniform this season. Top reserve Caris LeVert also did not play (left hamstring soreness), nor did backup point guard Ty Jerome (right ankle sprain).
“It’s tough because we’re missing a bunch of guys, but you can’t dwell on it because we have to come back tomorrow and do it again,” Mitchell said. “I’m never one to make excuses.”
Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff said he hoped that Allen “is doing more and more work and hopefully will be back soon,” but doesn’t have a return date targeted.
“It’s hit us at a tough time, obviously,” Bickerstaff said. “Our approach is no different, but you have to accept the results of the situation.”
Isaiah Hartenstein had 13 points and seven rebounds, and fellow center Mitchell Robinson added eight points and seven boards for New York. The Knicks are 2-1 on the road and 2-2 overall.
“The luxury that we have is we have two great bigs (Randle and Robinson) and any night, one of them can step up,” Hartenstein said. “My job is just to be ready every night.”
Cavaliers undrafted rookie Craig Porter scored 10 points and Evan Mobley collected six points, 12 rebounds, five assists, and two blocks. Draft pick Emoni Bates had nine points and six rebounds.
“You do what you have to do to ramp a guy up for NBA basketball,” Bickerstaff said. “This is what is expected.”