For the last time this season, it’s the Cavs facing the Knicks. It’s a battle of two of the very, very worst teams in the league. But one of those teams has Kevin Love. Let’s get into it.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (14-47) at New York Knicks (13-48)
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Madison Square Garden — New York, New York
Enemy Blog: Posting and Toasting
TV: Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
Online: Fox Sports GO, NBA League Pass
Cavs status updates: Tristan Thompson (OUT - foot soreness), John Henson (OUT - wrist), J.R. Smith (NWT)
Knicks status updates: DeAndre Jordan (DOUBTFUL - sprained left ankle), Frank Ntilikina (OUT - sore groin)
Cavs expected starting lineup: Collin Sexton, Brandon Knight, Cedi Osman, Kevin Love, Ante Zizic
Knicks expected starting lineup: Dennis Smith Jr., Damyean Dotson, Lance Thomas, Noah Vonleh, Kevin Knox
Three keys to the game
- Kevin Love is going to be the player on the floor. Noah Vonleh has been good for the Knicks this year, but Love is a whole class above him as a player. If the Cavs keep playing like they have with Love on the floor in the last three games, they should have a big advantage against the Knicks. Love’s presence is likely reason enough to pick Cleveland win this game.
- How will Collin Sexton defend Dennis Smith Jr.? Sexton is a bad defender, but he’s getting a little bit better, at least based on the tape. Smith Jr. is not an elite guard by any means, but he’s quick and can create problems for defenses based on his speed. Case in point:
Let’s see how Sexton handles situations like this this time around against Smith Jr.
3. In the last three games, the Cavs are a much better rebounding team. Per nba.com/stats, Cleveland has a defensive rebounding percentage of 75.7 percent in the last three games — a jump from the team’s 72.7 defensive rebounding percentage on the season. There’s a direct correlation between the quicker sets the team is running and this, as it’s often Love getting the rebound and flinging a pass up the floor to Sexton or Cedi Osman or someone else. The Knicks are a below-average rebounding team — 16th in offensive rebounding percentage, 25th in defensive rebounding percentage, per nba.com/stats — so the Cavs should be able to own this part of the game.
4. Bonus: If the Cavs win tonight, they’ll sweep the season series against the Knicks. It’ll also put them two full games back of the Knicks for the second-worst record in the league.
Ante Zizic has good lately and making a case for 20-ish minutes a night the rest of the season, even when Tristan Thompson is back. Against the Knicks, he should be playing some minutes against Mitchell Robinson — aka the ‘Blockness Monster’. Robinson is prone to some over-aggression, but he’s already a good shot blocker and Zizic will need to show some skill to get his shots off against Robinson. It’s unclear how much the two will overlap, but in an ideal world, they’d play a decent amount against each other. That’s where we’ll learn the most about Zizic.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
Love make the Cavs better than the Knicks. Cavs 105, Knicks 98.