CLEVELAND — Josh Hart’s sprained left ankle couldn’t prevent him from playing Tuesday night in Game 2 of the Knicks’ opening-round playoff series against the Cavaliers.
Whether the ankle contributed to Hart’s struggles, however, is uncertain.
One of the heroes of Game 1, Hart was a non-factor in the Knicks’ ugly, 107-90 Game 2 loss, held to five points and four rebounds in 27 minutes at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
He looked healthy and didn’t appear to be favoring the ankle, but the results didn’t match.
Hart was listed as doubtful Monday after he injured the ankle late in Game 1 on Saturday.
He felt better Tuesday, was upgraded to questionable in the morning and then played.
“If I’m out there, I’m good,” said Hart, who nevertheless was a team-worst minus-29. “I’m feeling good.”
Hart was a key figure in the Knicks’ Game 1 victory, not only scoring 17 points along with 10 rebounds, but also hitting the game’s biggest shot — a 3-pointer with 1:47 left that gave the Knicks the lead for good in his playoff debut.
Moments earlier, Hart had fallen hard while going for a rebound, which is how he sustained the injury.
Since his acquisition in a trade-deadline deal with the Trail Blazers, Hart has emerged as an essential part of the Knicks’ bench.
The Knicks had won 18 of 26 games with Hart before the Game 2 loss.
Though the results suggested otherwise, the Knicks said before the game they weren’t treating Tuesday night as a house-money game, despite already having stolen away home-court advantage by winning the opener.
“What we’ve done [well] all year is just being [in the] present,” reserve center Isaiah Hartenstein said. “I think [if] you get too far ahead of being on that 1-0 lead, you get too caught up with it.”
Cavaliers starter Isaac Okoro played just three minutes. He picked up two early fouls and was benched in favor of Caris LeVert, the former Nets guard who scored 24 points.
“This is not a long-term decision with Isaac,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “Isaac has done a ton for us this year, and we will always treat our guys with respect.”
Danny Green, a Long Island native, also received rotation minutes for Cleveland. He hit a 3-pointer and came up with two steals.
After outrebounding the Cavaliers by 13 in Game 1, the Knicks lost the battle of the boards by seven, 43-36.
They were also outscored in the paint, 42-38, and gave up 17 second-chance points. All the hustle stats went Cleveland’s way.
Darius Garland said the Cavaliers had to throw the first punch in Game 2, and he landed a series of haymakers.
The All-Star guard scored 32 points and hit six 3-pointers to go with seven assists, leading Cleveland to the one-sided victory.
Garland was a game-high plus-29 in 36 minutes.
RJ Barrett has yet to find his game.
After a 2-for-12 shooting performance on Saturday, Barrett went 4-for-13 on Tuesday and missed all three of his 3-point attempts.
He also didn’t register an assist and was unable to deal with Garland on defense.
Caris LeVert went from zero to hero, bouncing back from his Game 1 dud to score 24 points off the bench on 9-for-16 shooting.
LeVert got the start in the second half in place of Isaac Okoro, and the former Nets wing repeatedly hurt the Knicks with dribble penetration and shot-making.
26 First-half points by Garland, three shy of the franchise playoff record for points in a half set by LeBron James in 2018.
Quote of the day
“At the end of the day, we came here and did what we’re supposed to do. We got one on the road. In the big picture of things, we have to be positive about that.”
— Julius Randle
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