The Cavs cruise into tonight’s match-up, streaking with a massive overtime road victory in tow and an impressive 4-1 record despite getting just 12 minutes from All-Star point guard Darius Garland. The Knicks (3-2), however, seem to be off to a solid start themselves. With the addition of point guard Jalen Brunson (averaging 18 points and 7 assists), the Knicks present an efficient, reliable facilitator who can close out tight games. As the Cavs push to integrate new pieces and establish a workable identity, they will need to minimize mistakes down the stretch. Tonight will bring a challenge to the Cavs as their starting 5 are beginning to pile up the minutes.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. New York Knicks
Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse - Cleveland, OH
When: 6:00 pm EST
TV: Bally Sports Ohio, Bally Sports+, NBA League Pass
Opposing blog: Posting & Toasting
Expected Cleveland starting lineup: Donovan Mitchell / Caris LeVert / Dean Wade / Evan Mobley / Jarrett Allen
Cavs injury report: Darius Garland (OUT - eye), Ricky Rubio (OUT - ACL), Dylan Windler (OUT - ankle), Isaiah Mobley (OUT - G League assignment)
Expected New York starting lineup: Jalen Brunson / Evan Fournier / RJ Barrett / Julius Randle / Mitchell Robinson
Knicks injury report: Quentin Grimes (OUT - foot)
The Cavs have the players and the skills to compete with just about any team in the league. The addition of Donovan Mitchell at this point has exceeded expectations, but we have a aforementioned minutes issue…and with that, a bit of trouble closing out games. The absence of Garland has been at the forefront of this predicament, but the team has been lucky to have the skills, strength and experience of Mitchell to carry the team. Toss in a revitalized Caris LeVert and we’re cooking. However–let’s be honest, things really should have been packed up after four quarters on Friday. Tonight, the Cavs need to take care of the ball – both sides of it – for a full 48.
As the Cavs learn to balance their newly-assembled offense without the assistance of their floor leader, showcasing Cavs’ star Evan Mobley has been a bit clunky at times. Over the last two games, however, things have started to click. He excels when he’s active on defense, making unimaginable blocks look standard and covering the entire key in what appears to be one gigantic graceful step. Down low on offense, his hands abnormally come up with the ball through a sea of overreaching double, sometimes triple teams for timely putbacks at the rim. It’s somewhat confusing to be honest. With Darius Garland — the star who most fluently comprehends the impossibility of Mobley’s scope of services — still absent from the lineup, Mitchell will have to work to guide the big and get him more touches around the rim and elbow.
Five games in, Cedi Osman is rolling and it doesn’t appear to be a fluke. When the ball isn’t falling, Osman has still been able to contribute by driving the basket, locking down on defense and pulling down key rebounds. Last week against Orlando, Osman struggled from the arc (1-5), but was able to finish a +5 with 14 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists. This maturation and ability to adjust will earn Cedi extra time on the court, particularly when Isaac Okoro has struggled to find his flow this year. With LeVert’s exclamation mark of an evening against the Celtics on Friday, we can expect him to continue as a starter. As a result, Cedi has become one of the Cavs’ most-valued players coming off the bench. Who had THAT on their bingo card?