Darius Garland backs up tough talk with big Game 2 for Cavaliers

CLEVELAND — Darius Garland vowed the Cavaliers would push back in Game 2 of their opening-round playoff series against the Knicks, and he certainly did his share of the shoving Tuesday night.

The 2022 All-Star guard pumped in 26 of his 32 points in a dominant first half, as the Cavaliers pulled even with a 107-90 dismantling of the Knicks at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

The 23-year-old Garland had said following the Knicks’ physical victory in the series opener that the Cavaliers needed to adopt a “hit first” mentality “instead of being punched in the face and just laying down.”

“Everybody in the building told me to go and be aggressive and shoot the ball,” said Garland, who was held to 17 points in Game 1. “I watched the film from the first game and saw some opportunities I could go get mine.

“I was mad about the [Game 1] loss, but we knew it was going to be a long series. We came back and responded tonight.”

Darius Garland reacts during the Cavaliers’ Game 2 win over the Knicks
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Cleveland clamped down defensively and led by 20 (59-39) at halftime, forcing the Knicks into 14 of their 17 turnovers, one more than they’d totaled in the entirety of Game 1.

While the Knicks shot 36.8 percent from the floor through the first two quarters, Garland was 6-for-10, including four makes from 3-point range.

He also shot all 11 of his free-throw attempts in the half, sinking 10 from the stripe. His 26 points came within three of matching LeBron James’ franchise record for a first half from 2018.

“When you look at it, we turned the ball over, so that was a big problem, put them in the open floor. I think we had 18 turnovers, they had 32 points. That’s a problem. The rebounding was a problem,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “So Garland’s strength is his shot and he got going, he got into a good rhythm. It was too late when we started challenging.”

Darius Garland drives to the basket against the Knicks in Game 2.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

The Cavaliers held a 21-20 edge in rebounds at intermission, and 43-36 for the game, led by 13 from Evan Mobley.

They also mostly delivered on their promise to keep the Knicks off the offensive glass, holding them to 13 offensive rebounds after they’d managed 17 in Game 1.

Caris LeVert also bounced back from a poor shooting night in Game 1 to contribute 24 points in 39 minutes off the bench for Cleveland.