1. Who performs better in the Rising Stars rematch
everyone (okay only Chris Manning, who posed this question) has been waiting for: Tim Hardaway Jr. or Dion Waiters?
Trevor Magnotti, Right Down Euclid Staff Writer: The time after the All-Star Break has been very hit-or-miss for both of these players. Waiters, of course, suffered a hyperextended knee in his first game after the break against Philadelphia, but looked good both before the injury, scoring 13 points in 14 minutes prior, and after his return, posting a 24-point effort against San Antonio and had 19 points on 8-18 shooting against Charlotte last night. Meanwhile, Hardaway has been all over the map for the Knicks since Valentine’s weekend, scoring 23 against the Grizzlies and 22 against the Warriors, but being held scoreless in the Detroit game and shooting 2-15 against Miami. I think this could absolutely go either way here, but I think Waiters should be the better performer. Hardaway will probably come in with a chip on his shoulder after Waiters was sitting there daring him to shoot in the Rising Stars Game, but the Knicks’ defensive system is so beyond a disaster that I wouldn’t be surprised to see Waiters and Kyrie attack the rim at will. Waiters should have more freedom to do what he wants offensively because of this, so I’ll say he barely edges THJ in this contest.
Chris Manning, Right Down Euclid EIC: In a dream world, we would get to see a 3 vs. 3 game with teams of Kyrie Irving/Dion Waiters/Spencer Hawes going against Tim Hardaway Jr./J.R. Smith/Tyson Chandler but no dice. Still, we may get to see mini-duel between these two players. It won’t rival their bananas Rising Stars throwdown, but it could be entertaining. However, expect Waiters to get the edge here by virtue of having more freedom within the offense. He is, without question, the Cavalies second option and is going to take a high numer of shots. As for Hardaway, he has to get his shots within the flow of the offense. That alone gives Waiters the edge.
Christian Baber, PostingandToasting.com Staff Writer: Very likely Dion Waiters. Hardaway Jr. has been in a funk lately, shooting just 30.8 percent from three over his last ten games. Tim’s value is almost entirely based in his ability to knock down threes at this early point in his career, so it’ll be bad news for him and the Knicks if he continues to have a cold shooting arm. Waiters can get to the rim essentially at will against the Knick rookie, though THJ will probably work a little harder than usual on defense against Dion. Timmy’ll get his minutes with Shumpert still working back into form, so expect the full Ben Gordon from Tim: A bunch of three-point attempts, a tremendous lack of defensive awareness, and one rebound.
Quentin Haynes, CrabDribbles: Waiters. I love Tim, but good lord, he is a poor defensive player. Not only that, but he’s been in a bit of a funk offensively. Waiters should be able to slide right past him on the offensive end, and if Hardaway can’t match him at points offensively, this could get ugly. I’m sure both Waiters and Hardaway will provide some one-on-one moments in this game, but give me Waiters to win the battle here.
2. Amar’e Stoudemire has actually seemed to look healthy lately for the first time in three years. How can the Cavs stop him off the bench?
TM: I’ve actually enjoyed the little resurgence Amar’e’s had offensively over the past few games. While he still isn’t going to be a threat to defend anyone, ever, just the joy of seeing him get down the floor consistently without looking labored, and actually dunking in traffic a few times against Chicago and Detroit, has been great. It seems like with how lost this Knicks season has seemed, there’s always at least one thing going kinda right, whether it be THJ’s successes as a rookie, or Andrea Bargnani carving up the Thunder from midrange in the first half on Christmas Day, or Amar’e actually looking, you know, alive. As far as the Cavs stopping him, I think defending him with Spencer Hawes or Tyler Zeller would be the smart call. Tristan Thompson struggles with mobile power forwards, and would be better suited for the matchup with the bigger but way less mobile (and more disinterested) Tyson Chandler. Hawes and Zeller can move better and stay in front of Amar’e, which will help limit his effectiveness on the offensive end.
CM: Enter one Tyler Zeller. He’s been playing some strong basketball off the bench as of late. Against the Bobcats, he struggled to defend Al Jefferson, but he hung in there took his lumps and even had a few stretches of success. Against Stoudemire – who is by no means mobile or as athletic or as good as Jefferson – Zeller can come off the bench and have success defending Stoudemire. As of right now, he’s the Cavaliers best defensive center and should be able to body up Amar’e down low and largely limit his effectiveness. You can sub in Spencer Hawes’ name here as well and maybe even Tristan Thompson’s considering that Amar’e just isn’t as explosive as he used to be.
CB: Coach Woodson inserted Stoudemire into the starting unit three games ago against the Pistons, and the results have been surprising. Amar’e has actually been making defensive plays lately, and his size has been appreciated in the paint. Tyler Zeller is probably the best option available for the Cavs interior, but Stoudemire’s been tough for anyone to stop over the last couple of games. He’s scoring in a variety of ways: Pick-and-roll, pick-and-pop, and face-ups out of the post. STAT’s recently been finishing with dunks over smaller defenders like Marvin Williams, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him capture another little baby poster against an overmatched forward like Anthony Bennett. Stoudemire’s turnover-prone, so Zeller or Hawes should be able to bait him into offensive fouls and the like.
QH: Amar’e has been fine, and it’s rather surprising. I believe it was Alan Hahn who tweeted that the Knicks are a plus-74 in first quarters since inserting Stoudemire into the starting lineup. His offense was never the issue for me, as Amar’e has been the pick-and-roll demigod he’s always been, and the jumper looks to be back. The defense will always be alarming, and with Cleveland’s bigs, I think we’ll see him get in a bit of foul trouble and Zeller and Hawes should be able to pull him from the basket a bit, and that’s where he gets into trouble.
3. Tyson Chandler vs. Spencer Hawes figures to have an impact on the outcome of the game. Who gets the better of this matchup and why?
TM: I’d say Hawes, because as I mentioned in the previous question, Tyson Chandler has been putting stamps on games since the All-Star Break. Chandler’s been tasked with basically being the only cognitively aware defensive player on the floor, and he seems tired of attempting to fix his teammates’ messes on that end. Having to chase Hawes around both the post and the perimeter seems like a difficult task that I’m not sure Tyson will enjoy too much. Also, on the offensive end, Chandler will likely have to deal with Tristan Thompson for stretches, who’s a high-energy defender in the post. That will probably frustrate Chandler a tad, maybe even more than Pablo Prigioni sailing yet another pass out of bounds. Basically, I just see Chandler behaving like a fed-up Dad at a family reunion. The brisket is already burnt to hell, Uncle Woody forgot to grab beer, and Tyson just wants these damn kids off his damn lawn. I look for Hawes to capitalize.
CM: Tyson Chandler is capable of slowing down Hawes on offense, but considering that he is slowing some age and is tasking with running the entire New York defense, I think Hawes can find some success. He can pull out from behind the arc, hit threes and and also open things up for everyone else. And when Thompson has to defend Tristan Thompson and/or Tyler Zeller, he’s only to have his gas tank drained. If this game is close near the end (which I expect it will be), the Cavaliers should consdiering feeding Hawes down low and taking advantage of Chandler. But instead of reading more about this, just read Trevor’s answer again. He absoultely hit the nail on the head (or some other phrase that isn’t a cliche).
CB: I wouldn’t write off Tyson so quickly. He’s been a mess defensively at times this season, and sometimes looks like he’s sold out of interest on that end of the floor, but he can still make a big impact on the glass and off of screens and by just being tall and standing near the goal. Hawes wore a 76ers uniform the last time they met but Chandler dropped a 10-14 double-double with three blocks. He kept taking advantage of Hawes’ help defense: Spencer would step up to cover a penetrating Knick guard and Chandler would slam home a lob. He doesn’t have much in his offensive arsenal other than that, but Tyson can run rampant over an unprepared interior if he’s underestimated. Hawes will probably get a bunch of open threes though. I’m already gearing up for a Mark Price-esque shooting performance from him.
QH: Give me Chandler, but it will be close. Chandler has been poor on defense this season, but I think he should be able to defend Hawes around the basket. Away from the basket, and Hawes should be able to thrive. Chandler should be able to take advantage of some open points around the basket via lobs, but Hawes will make him work for it. If the Knicks guards can force Hawes to step out to disrupt them, I can easily see Chandler having a great game.
4. Answering with just the team name, which team is a better bet to make the postseason?
TM: The Atlanta Hawks.
CM: The Cavs.
CB: The Cavs.
QH: The Cavs.