Cleveland is back in the NBA playoffs – They’re young, they’re fun but can they make a run?

These basketball sculptures sit outside the home of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. This image was originally posted to Flickr by EDrost88 at (archive). It was reviewed on 18 February 2018 by FlickreviewR 2 and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0.

With the NBA playoffs taking place over the next few weeks, there is a lot of anticipation for the top teams to perform well and take the reins of the league throughout bracket play. The Cleveland Cavaliers are one of those teams after grabbing the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. However, after a disappointing Game 1 loss to the New York Knicks, questions have arisen about whether they have what it takes to make a run.

After hearing the buzz from around the league, the Cavaliers grew tired of listening to the critics. Darius Garland and company took note of what people were saying, and decided to let their play do the talking, coming out with a vengeance and cruising past the Knicks with a 107-90 victory in Game 2.

It was a dominating performance from top to bottom. After opening up a 20-point lead in the first half, the Cavs had control almost the whole way through. They shot an efficient 49.4% from the field, including a 42.4% night from three-point land.

These are the Cavs that fans were expecting to see once the playoffs rolled around. The team signed Donovan Mitchell in the previous offseason for more offensive explosiveness, and the three-time all star has notched 13 40-point games this season alone, and came close to another in Game 1 of the series with 38 points.

While Mitchell scored 17 in Game 2, it was Garland who stole the show. The point guard lit it up the floor, scoring 32 on the night including 26 coming in the first half. With his impressive display, Garland joined Kyrie Irving and Lebron James as the only Cavaliers to score 25 or higher in a single half during a playoff game in the last 25 years. He was aggressive in the paint, hitting crafty layups, and mercilessly showed off his range, shooting 6-10 from behind the arc.

Caris Levert was also magnificent off of the bench. Production from the second rotation has been a question mark all season, and top-level analysts from The Athletic and Sports Illustrated have deemed it not strong enough. Despite this notion, Levert carried the reserves in Game 2, dropping 24 points into the net, which was the second-most on the entire team.

He had a great night with the rock, but the Cavs still have only 26 points off the bench in the first two games of the postseason, negating Tuesday night’s hoopla from Levert. It is critical that they give more production so the starters do not have to do it all. If the Cavs want to make a serious run, they need all guys on the floor to produce.

The defense shined and helped lead Cleveland to victory on Tuesday. They held New York to a maximum of 22 points throughout the first three quarters, and the third-ranked defense in the NBA accumulated seven blocks.

Of course, it helps having two 7-footers in Jared Allen and Evan Mobley guarding the paint, but the guards limited the Knicks to an abysmal 24.1% from downtown. There were efforts from everyone, including a pair of steals from Danny Green and Mitchell, as well as a block from Cedi Osman.

Another positive for the Cavaliers is that they are a very young team. No one in the starting lineup is over 26 years old, which is ludicrous to think about given the amount of talent this group has. If they can keep playing together and stay healthy, they have a legitimate 10-year window to make a run for a championship.

It could even be this year. They have made it this far, and in the playoffs anything can happen. But with the series knotted at 1-1, the Cavs’ work is far from finished. The waters will be tested with the team heading to Madison Square Garden for Friday’s matchup in New York, where they look to take a 2-1 lead over the Knicks.