With only one game standing between their heavyweight bout against the Golden State Warriors on Christmas, the Cleveland Cavaliers welcome in the New York Knicks for the Cavs' final home game of 2015.
Who: New York Knicks at Cleveland Cavaliers
When: 7:00 p.m.
Where: Quicken Loans Arena
How to watch: Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
Enemy Blog: Posting and Toasting
Music: Jay-Z - Heart of the City
What to watch for:
- Although he already has one game under his belt when he made his season debut against the Philadelphia 76ers this past Sunday, scoring 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting, Kyrie Irving now gets to make a start against an actual NBA team with actual NBA-caliber point guards. The Knicks don't have any guards that should challenge him on offense, but since you can technically consider this his first actual game back, it will be interesting how much Cavs' coach David Blatt will use him. Both LeBron James and Kevin Love face tough match-ups, leaving Irving with a decent mismatch versus whoever is guarding. With the Warriors game just two days away, will Irving treat the Knicks as another warmup game, or will he take advantage of the advantage he'll have on the offensive end, pushing himself a little harder than we might expect in just his second game back?
- Speaking of offense, the million-dollar question of Irving's return would be how Love will be used in the offense. Love took just four shots Sunday after taking nearly 14 shots per game in the 24 games prior to Irving's return. Foul trouble and the Cavs blowing out the 76ers didn't help that cause, but it hasn't been a good start to how Love will be utilized in the offense when the Cavs are at full strength. I was never concerned that Love will have problems getting his own with LeBron and Irving sharing the court with him, and I feel like this is more the exception than the rule. LeBron has been insistent at getting Love involved in the offense while Irving was rehabbing, and I think as the season goes on, LeBron will install that mindset into Irving.
- The Cavs' offense hasn't been as lethal as they would like over their previous four games but, their defense has annihilated opponents' offenses, holding them to 37.9 percent shooting, 84.2 points per game and 89.3 points per possession. Because of that stretch, the Cavs given up the sixth-lowest defense efficiency for the entire season. Offense will still be the strength of this team, but having a top-ten defense is just as important to them as having a top-five offense. And as it stands now, they have both 25 games into the season.
- This game has "trap game" written all over it. This is the one game that stands between the Cavs and the Warriors and their NBA Finals rematch on Christmas, and the Knicks aren't exactly gonna catch enough attention to the Cavs for their to have no chance that Cleveland doesn't look over them. This is where LeBron's (and James Jones') leadership will need to show in order for the Cavs to avoid a letdown before the league's biggest game of the year.
Fear the Sword's fearless prediction:
No matter what his team's record is, Carmelo Anthony always seems to bring his A-game any time he steps on a court with LeBron. I expect these two to battle back-and-forth, similar to how LeBron and Thunder's forward Kevin Durant did last week. Fortunately for the Cavs, Anthony doesn't have Russell Westbrook-like teammate and the Cavs are nearly unbeatable when LeBron, Irving and Love all play. Cavs will win, 105-95.