Coming off two straight losses to the Pacers and Pistons, the Cleveland Cavaliers will attempt to pick up a win against the New York Knicks tonight. The Cavs find themselves in the unfortunate place of being the first team the Knicks face after the Bulls snapped their 13-game winning streak last night. This should mean an angry Knicks team tonight, which will be very difficult for the Cavs to overcome, even at home.
Opponent’s Blog: Buckets Over Broadway
Venue: Quicken Loans Arena
Tipoff: 7:30 p.m.
Betting Line: Knicks by -5
Where you can watch: Fox Sports Ohio
Where you can listen: WTAM AM 1100
The Cavs have actually played the Knicks pretty tightly in the teams’ meetings this season, falling 103-102 on December 15 and 102-97 on March 4. The March 4 game was the game fondly remembered as “the Marreese Speights Game,” as Speights started for Tyler Zeller, who was sick, and hit his first nine shots en route to 23 points and 8 rebounds. Carmelo Anthony went out with injury in the first half, and the Cavs were able to capitalize and build a 12-point first-half lead. However, in the second half, Amar’e Stoudemire went off to finish with 22 points himself, and J.R. Smith rebounded from a rough first half to post 18 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists as the Knicks took over and came back to win.
For tonight’s game, the Cavaliers will need to stop Melo. Anthony is currently the NBA’s leading scorer, overtaking the lead from Kevin Durant thanks to his recent scoring tear: the man has six straight 35+ point games, including a 50-point effort against Miami and 36 last night against the Bulls. He’s been pretty unstoppable lately. J.R. Smith has also been a loose cannon on both sides of the ball, but when that cannon is firing laser threes at a clip of 38 percent from three and scoring 22 points per game in April, he’s gonna be tough to stop.
The problem with this, of course, is that these guys are a horrible matchup for the Cavs defense. To stop Melo, the Cavs will have to use Tristan Thompson, who isn’t quick enough to defend him, or Alonzo Gee, who doesn’t really have the length to combat Melo’s, for most of the game. Smith will be a little easier because the Cavs can send Dion Waiters and Alonzo Gee at him, but J.R. will be spending time at the point, creating matchup problems with his 6-6 frame, and normally J.R. will readily shoot, and somehow hit shots, no matter what defense is thrown at him. Throw in the fact that Tyson Chandler is going to be abusing Zeller and Speights on the glass, and this could be a very, very tough game for the Cavaliers.
If the Cavs are going to win, Kyrie Irving and Thompson are going to have to carry the team offensively. Irving has the luxury of going up against Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd, who really aren’t defensive threats, and should be able to torch anyone the Knicks throw at him. Thompson may struggle to guard Melo, but will present similar problems on the offensive end if he can bang down low, and the Knicks don’t really play lineups with two bigs often without Amar’e’s presence, so when Melo and/or Chandler sit, Thompson should be able to provide some offensive power inside.