On a normal evening, the New York Knicks would wipe the floor with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The 3rd place team in the Eastern Conference has Carmelo Anthony (one of the league’s premier stars) and a really strong supporting cast. The Cavaliers, on the other hand, are all but out of the playoff race and have had injuries derail some of their top players. But with the Knicks coming off a tough loss to Miami last night, and the Cavaliers likely welcoming back Kyrie Irving this game is unquestionably up for grabs.
Opponent’s Blog: Buckets Over Broadway
Venue: Quicken Loans Arena
Tipoff: 7 P.M
Betting Line: Knicks by -3
Where you can watch: Fox Sports Ohio
Where you can listen: WTAM (1100), WFUN (970 AM)
For the Cavaliers, this game is winnable if all of their top players play. Irving is probable for tonight, while rookies Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller are both questionable with undisclosed illnesses. If all three of that trio plays, then some interesting match ups will happen. Irving against Raymond Felton (and some Jason Kidd) is interesting, as is Zeller taking on a big challenge in Tyson Chandler. However, the most intriguing matchup to me is Waiters versus Iman Shumpart. Shumpart isn’t great on offense, but he is a solid defender that could give Waiters some fits.
One other matchup to watch is when Anthony shifts to the four and is defended by the Cavalier’s Tristan Thompson. Thompson, a decent defender, is going to be at a large speed disadvantage when defending Anthony. It’s hard to see how Thompson will slow down Anthony in the open floor and even in the post, but the same could be said for Anthony in the post. He’s never been a great defender and I’d like to see the Cavaliers feed the ball to Thompson down low and make Anthony work on both ends of the floor.
For the Knicks, their one concern is about their fatigue. As mentioned before, they played a grueling game against the Heat where Anthony, Felton, Kidd, Chandler and J.R. Smith all played more than thirty minutes. Even crazier, only Felton played less than 34 minutes against Miami. With the Cavaliers having been off since Friday, it’ll be interesting to see how fatigue affects this game.
The Knicks are the best they’ve ever been and Anthony is having arguably the best season of this career. In many peoples minds (including this writer’s) they are one of the few teams in the league that will be able to push the Heat come playoff time. A win for the Cavaliers as they stand now would be a huge notch in their belt.
Let’s also not forget what happened the last time the Cavaliers took on the Knicks. Irving, wearing a black facial mask, scored 41 at Madison Square Garden almost lead the Cavaliers back in a 103-102 loss. The performance Irving put on that night was recently coming back from injury and had just had another injury scare a few nights before. The situation is different now (and the injury less severe) but if Irving puts on a similar performance, tonight could be incredible.
UPDATE: Both Waiters and Zeller are now out due to illness. Wayne Ellington will start in place of Waiters, while Marresse Speights will start in place of Zeller.