Tonight's match-up is a meeting of teams that have not lived up to expectations this season. While many speculated that the Knicks may struggle to reach the level they were playing at last year, few predicted that they would be at the bottom of the Eastern Conference for the better part of the first half of the season. They've been playing better as of late, mainly due to the fact that Carmelo Anthony hasn't been missing shots. The Cavaliers hope to slow down the Knicks and try to make up for their poor showing on the home stand with a road win.
When: 8:00 pm ET
Where? Madison Square Garden, New York, New York
Where on my eyeballs? TNT (I'm so sorry schedule makers)
All glory to the shuffle button!
It's no secret the Knicks have had a rough season, I believe it's been touched on by a media outlet or two. But that isn't to say that they can't be a dangerous team. The Knicks are 10th in points allowed per game and have been much better in that area since the return of Tyson Chandler. While the injured Andrea Bargnani can be a solid post defender, his absence has improved their off ball and help defense. The hungry Jeremy Tyler has taken some of Bargnani's minutes and has looked more than serviceable, posting a 24.2 PER in brief stints. The Knicks also turn the ball over fewer than any team in the league averaging just over 12 turnovers a game. Though, part of this may be due to the fact that it's difficult to turn the ball over if you aren't passing it. The Knicks are a fairly stagnant team, ranking 21st in assists per game.
Carmelo Anthony may be a flawed player, but there's no denying that he can be one of the most dangerous scorers in the league when he's hot. Don't believe me? Here he is ruining the career (not actually) of very talented Michael Kidd-Gilchrist:
The Knicks are shooting 53% over their winning streak. If the Cavs want to come away with the win, they need to slow them down and make them work for their baskets. When things aren't open and flowing for the Knicks they can be prone to imploding. If you make them struggle, they tend to beat themselves.
As the legendary Rob Hogg would say, #Caves?
I'm experiencing a feeling that has unfortunately become all too common during my Cavs fandom, exasperation. Watching the Cavs is like watching someone trying to drive through a parking lot covered in black ice without power steering. You feel like they might know what they're supposed to do and where they are supposed to go, but it they make it look so difficult and they wind up smashing into everything. I have no idea what to expect from this team on a night to night basis. But if you try hard enough, you just might remember a time when this team was fun.
We've seen this team deliver when things looked bleak and on the national stage. Yesterday in my discussions with some of you I noted that it's tough to blame Mike Brown for not having a set rotation in place when you don't know what you're getting out of all 15 players each night. From Kyrie Irving to Henry Sims this team needs to grow up. I believe in these guys... They really are in fact super young when you think about it and there is essentially half a season left. I probably should know better, I should probably be more cynical, as throughout my time following this team they've given me very little joy between the lashings. But I've seen teams like this mature, I've seen young players grow up and develop into professionals in every sense of the word. The majority of this team are professionals only because they earn a paycheck for playing basketball; they have a long way to go before they treat this game with the respect it deserves.
This might sound bleak but it's not. I've been mistaken by rushing to judge players in the past and with this team most of the signs seem to point to them being pretty good guys (considering that most are 22 and under and making millions). Who would have thought three years ago that Lance Stephenson doing the choke sign at LeBron off of the Pacers bench in the playoffs would even still be in the league today, forget legitimately receiving All Star consideration? I still believe that Luol Deng will have a positive impact on the core as this season wears on, he's the definition of a professional and has proven to be a steadying force at times on the court when things are really going downhill.
Forgive me if this preview isn't really breaking down what the Cavs need to do effectively to win this game. Like everyone else, I have no idea what to expect from their roster tonight. Some players are going to have bad games, hopefully enough have good games. Not everybody is going to perform at a high level every night, but this team needs to learn how to adjust when someone isn't rolling. Plus, whoever doesn't have it going needs to learn how to do other things to impact the game and not be on a liability on the court. It sounds vague and simple, but it's what's necessary. The team needs to find ways to band together and sacrifice their own agendas for the betterment of the team. Sometimes basketball really does come down to who wants it more, the Cavs need to identify what it is that they really want.
Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction:
My heart says they show up tonight. Win 103-97