1. How should the Cavaliers try to contain Carmelo Anthony?
Scott Davis, Buckets Over Broadway EIC: Oddly, teams have had more success if they have a semi-reliable defender that can hang with Anthony one-on-one. At times, Anthony is just too good one-on-one, and he’ll beat that defender, but it may be better than the alternative. This has been proven in recent games: the Brooklyn Nets and Orlando Magic sent double-teams to Anthony, and Anthony whipped it out to the perimeter where the Knicks feasted on three-pointers. However, teams like Chicago, Indiana, and Boston threw the likes of Luol Deng, Paul George, and Brandon Bass at ‘Melo and slowed him down. Who the Cavs possess to do that, though, I’m not sure.
Trevor Magnotti, Staff Writer: I’m of the opinion that it’s not Melo the Cavs need to stop. The Cavs don’t really have a good matchup for Melo, but they could destroy the Knicks’ frontcourt, and between J.R. Smith, Raymond Felton, and Pablo Prigioni, the Knicks’ backcourt looks guardable, even by the Cavs’ guards. I honestly would love to see the Cavs do what the 2011 Hawks did to Dwight Howard in the playoffs, and just let Dwight go bananas while shutting down everyone else. Really, unless Melo goes for like 45, which is a stretch even with a mismatch like Alonzo Gee or Tristan Thompson on him, I can’t see the rest of the Knicks’ offense posing much of a threat here. So I say, don’t worry about Melo, concentrate on your advantages everywhere else, and I think they’ll be fine.
Marlowe Alter, Staff Writer: There are two types of thinking here. You can let Carmelo go to work, let him control the ball and take 25-30 shots to score (hopefully) no more than 35-40 points.
Or you can double him and force someone else to beat you. The Knicks lack a consistent secondary scoring option with the mercurial J.R. Smith – last season’s Sixth Man of the Year – off to an erratic start. New York can get hot from beyond-the-arc if you choose to double Anthony with guys like Smith, Andrea Bargnani, Raymond Felton, rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. and Iman Shumpert. I’d take my chances by playing Anthony straight up with Tristan Thompson and force ‘Melo to shoot contested jump shots. Rotate the bigger Earl Clark onto Anthony and if you have to, Alonzo Gee. Don’t allow Anthony to get in a comfort zone.
2. Which franchise is more dysfunctional: The Knicks or the Cavaliers?
SD: The Knicks, and I don’t think it’s all that close. Coming into the season, people were expecting, maybe, a low playoff seed from the Cavs. The Knicks, meanwhile, were talking championships. Cleveland is ahead of New York in the standings and can at least hold onto the hopes of youth and draft picks, two things the Knicks are sorely lacking.
TM: I’d rather be dysfunctional and young over dysfunctional and beyond the grave. At least the Cavs still have hope of realizing potential. The Knicks don’t really. Also, J.R. Smith. POINT, KNICKS.
MA: The Knickerbockers are arguably the most fractured major professional sports franchise and have been for over a decade. The Cavaliers are nowhere near the Knicks level of incompetence and it goes well beyond just basketball decisions. Also, Cleveland has some young talent, draft picks and cap flexibility. The Knicks are barren across the board and won’t have major cap space until the summer of 2015.
3. Should the Cavaliers work from the inside or from the outside against the Knicks defense?
SD: The inside. The Knicks are currently 12th in the NBA in opponent 3FG%, which is weird because the rest of their defense is abysmal. A speedy, indefensible guard like Kyrie Irving and a competent big man could get whatever they want against the Knicks’ pick-and-roll defense. The Knicks have some OK individual defenders, but when the team as a whole has to move and defend an actual offensive game plan, they quickly fall apart. But I’m sure the Knicks would gladly welcome it if the Cavs choose not to exploit a highly exploitable pick-and-roll defense,
TM: I have to agree that inside is where to attack. You’re facing a team with Andrea Bargnani and Kenyon Martin as their primary posts, and an acceptable three-point defense. I’m not sure why the Cavs wouldn’t just run their normal offense against New York. After all, a heavy dose of Bynum post-ups against Bargs and attacking the rim from Kyrie and Dion doesn’t seem like something New York will be able to stop. The Knicks are probably in trouble on defense, especially if a shooter gets hot. That would likely take Iman Shumpert away from Kyrie/Dion duty and free them up to do what they want against Felton and Prigioni, because Martin, Anthony, and Bargs will be struggling to contain Bynum and Thompson.
MA: Without 2012 Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler, New York is terribly weak inside. They don’t have anybody who can defend a relatively healthy Andrew Bynum one-on-one. Bynum has looked more comfortable recently, posting games of 20, 14, 20 and 18 points over the last four outings on 55 percent shooting (31-56). The Knicks would surely rather have the Cavaliers try to beat them from the outside and with the mismatch of Bargnani on Bynum, look for the Knicks to double the big man in the post and force the Cavaliers to execute with their perimeter players. Cleveland is 29th in the two most important advanced offensive shooting statistics and 29th in offensive efficiency. I would pound the ball inside to Bynum and Thompson and force the Knicks to play cohesive team defense, something they’ve struggled with this season.