LAST TIME OUT
The Cavaliers continue to stay consistently inconsistent. Currently they’re reeling, losing their third straight last night in Charlotte 101-92. Fortunately for Cleveland, the eighth-seeded Atlanta Hawks lost its fifth straight, keeping the Cavs just 3.5 games behind with 19 to play. Luol Deng and Dion Waiters scored 19 apiece in the loss, while Kyrie Irving struggled mightily, shooting 5-17 from the field and 0-7 from three for 13 points. The Bobcats outscored the Cavs 25-18 in the fourth quarter to pull away for a key victory. Charlotte sits in seventh place in the eastern conference, five games clear of the Detroit Pistons and 5.5 ahead of the Cavs.
THIS TIME UP
The Opponent: New York Knickerbockers
Record: 23-40 overall, 10-20 away
Tipoff: 7:30 p.m. ET – Quicken Loans Arena
Where you can watch: Fox Sports Ohio, NBATV
Where you can listen: WTAM 1100
Previous Matchup: Knicks 117, Cavs 86 on Jan. 30, 2014
Opponent’s Blog: Buckets Over Broadway
Knicks: Andrea Bargnani (OUT-elbow)
Cavaliers: C-Anderson Varejao (QUESTIONABLE-back), SG-C.J. Miles (OUT-ankle)
The Cavs (24-39, tenth in the east) and Knicks (23-40, 11th ) are battling for lottery position in the 2014 NBA Draft. Wait, Whaaaat? They’re only 3.5 and 4.5 games out respectively in the playoff chase?!? That’s right, despite the fact that the two teams are a combined miserable 47-79, they still remain on the fringe of a playoff berth. Neither team can ill afford to lose winnable games, especially the Cavaliers. They face a daunting six-game schedule starting next week, which includes five current western conference playoff teams sandwiched around a visit from the Miami Heat. With former Cavs fan favorite Zydrunas Ilgauskas set to have his number retired at halftime and the stakes high, the crowd should be into the game making for a nice playoff-type environment.
Old Guard vs. the New Guard
The Knicks have age and plenty of big game experience on their side, while the Cavaliers will trot out a band of mostly young and talented, but green players. The Knicks starting five has played in a combined 272 playoff games, while the Cavs starting five has 84 games of playoff experience, with 48 of those games attributed to Luol Deng. Cleveland hasn’t played in any big games since the Lebron James era, so we’ll see how they react facing the pressure of another must-win type of game.
A Revitalized Amar’e Stoudemire?
Stoudemire has played quite well in his last four games, shooting 66 percent from the field and scoring 16 points per contest in 26 minutes. He and J.R. Smith have started the past three games and although Stoudemire lacks the explosiveness he once had, he’s still a dangerous offensive weapon when healthy and engaged. He can post up, hit from the perimeter in the pick-and-roll game and finish above the rim. He threw down two impressive dunks on the Detroit Pistons talented frontline earlier this week in a 22-point effort. Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller and even Anthony Bennett cannot let the veteran bully his way to the basket for easy shots.
Although the Knicks have won two straight while the Cavs have lost three consecutive games, I think the Cavaliers will be re-energized playing in front of the home crowd knowing they must win this game with the impending western road trip. I think Irving bounces back from last night’s performance and keeps the Cavs playoff hopes alive with an important win.