Well, things will get even more difficult. Tristan Thompson joins Kevin Love and David Nwaba as players the Cavs will be missing, and those might be the three best players the team has. They will welcome a New York Knicks team that is generally competing with them ... for ping pong balls. They’re missing their best player, Kristaps Porzingis, potentially for the season. With potential cap space, a strong free agent class, and a coach in David Fizdale that has the reputation of a guy who understands the modern league, the Knicks situation hasn’t looked this bright in years.
Now, this doesn’t mean they’re good. On the contrary, they find themselves in a spot similar to the Cavs; work to get a draft pick that allows them to either add a player to Porzingis in the form of a top college player, or use that asset in a trade to entice a Kevin Durant type player to the Big Apple. It’s the Knicks, so it’s hard to bank on anything working out. But the league would be better if they were better.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (6-21) vs. New York Knicks (8-20)
When: 7:00 pm
Where: Quicken Loans Arena — Cleveland, Ohio
Enemy Blog: Posting and Toasting
TV: Fox Sports Ohio
Online: NBA League Pass
Cavs injuries: David Nwaba (questionable), Kevin Love (out), Tristan Thompson (out).
Opponent injuries: Alonzo Trier (out), Trey Burke (out).
Three keys to the game:
- How good will Tim Hardaway Jr. be?
The Knicks have one of the great “big numbers on a bad team” guys in Tim Hardaway Jr. He’s on one of the league’s worst contracts, but you look at his numbers this year and say, “hey, maybe the lightbulb is coming on a little bit.” At 21.4 points per game, you could be forgiven for thinking maybe he can score in the league. Unfortunately, it’s coming on a true shooting percentage of just 54. He’s a sub-40 percent shooter, but is at least being helped by the fact that he’s launching a bunch of threes and hitting his free throws. In his last 10 games he’s at just 33.8 percent from the field. If he has a bounce-back game and gets hot (and let’s face it, the Cavs perimeter defending leaves a lot to be desired, he could hurt the Cavs.
2. Can Larry Nance Jr. win his matchup with Enes Kanter?
Without Tristan Thompson, I fear that Kanter may have a field day on the boards. Kanter is another guy who in the past has been more capable of filling up the stat sheet than helping a team win, but the Cavs may not have the players to take advantage of his defensive shortcomings, and his energy on the glass might be tough to counter. Larry Nance will take Thompson’s spot in the starting lineup, and his rebounding technique is not always as sound as you’d like. We’ll see if he can hang in there.
3. Can the Cavs starters score?
Things were extremely rough against the Bucks on Monday night. Rodney Hood, Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman, Alec Burks and Jordan Clarkson (not a starter) all were woefully deficient, which is to say, inefficient, when it came to putting the ball through the basketball hoop. It’s not an offensively gifted team, so their margin for error isn’t very big in the first place. Nance probably brings a little more skill to the table than Thompson so maybe that helps. But some of these guys have to get going. Against a bad team like the Knicks, they’ll have a shot.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
I think the guys were a little embarrassed at how they failed to be competitive on Monday night. They’ll play with energy and maybe even get a win. Cavs 102, Knicks, 96.