The Knicks got their first win in style, demolishing the Brooklyn Nets in a 21-point drubbing. Kristaps Porzingis continued his hot start to the season starring for the team, posting 30 points and nine rebounds.
Frank Ntilikina looked really comfortable in his first appearance for the team, giving fans a glimpse of what a possible partnership between the young duo could produce. The Knicks out-rebounded the Nets by 25 in their win and will need to continue to bring that energy off the glass to stand a chance with a much deeper talent pool.
Outside of the form of LeBron James, Cleveland has had a rocky start to their season. Coach Tyronn Lue has struggled to integrate the new pieces into the rotation. Dwyane Wade has finally moved himself to the bench for the greater good of the team and former Celtic Jae Crowder has struggled to make an imprint on both ends of the floor.
One of the few bright spots has been their efficiency from the field; their field goal percentage is fifth in the league at 47.6%. Their three-point shot has been much less effective, shooting 34.9% from the arc, good enough for only 15th in the league.
Three keys to the game
Defending Kristaps – Porzingis is damn near undefendable with his overall size and mobility. The best the Cavaliers can hope for is forcing him to give up the ball and playing good help defense. Even if the Latvian superstar begins to dominate it doesn’t necessarily mean a Knicks win as his form has been great all season despite New York’s win/loss record.
Three-point shooting – Cleveland was one of the best teams from the perimeter last year. The spacing the team was able to create around LeBron allowed them to jack up three-point shots at a consistent rate. While this is an entirely different roster, Coach Lue needs to find the rotations that best maximize his capabilities. For the Knicks in that area, they need to get more out of Tim Hardaway Jr, Doug McDermott and Courtney Lee to create more room for their centers.
Finding support for LeBron – Outside of LeBron, bench piece Kyle Korver has been the most consistent contributor for the team. Kevin Love’s numbers have been okay, but he’s still figuring out his new role at center. The constant positional changes aren’t helping him or the team. Cleveland will be hoping that its starting lineup can start to ease the load on LeBron so his minutes load can start to ease and his energy can be conserved for the all-important postseason.
Matchup to watch
Kevin Love vs Enes Kanter – Both of these players know how to get buckets. It’s how they can contribute in other ways to make their teams better. There won’t be a lot of hard defense as these two battle it out but expect lots of points. Look for Cleveland to try to get Love going early to increase his confidence and engage him on both ends of the floor.
New York Knicks projected starting lineup
PG – Jarrett Jack | SG – Courtney Lee | SF – Tim Hardaway Jr. | PF – Kristaps Porzingis | C – Enes Kanter
Cleveland Cavaliers projected starting lineup
PG – Derrick Rose | SG – JR Smith | SF – LeBron James | PF – Jae Crowder | C – Kevin Love
You can’t go wrong with either LeBron or Kristaps in this one. Both players are locks to put up big numbers. Look for Porzingis to post something in the realm of 30 points, 10 rebounds and a block or two, while James will likely flirt with a 25-point triple double.
The line is at Cleveland to win by 10 points in this outing. There could be some money in betting on New York to cover that, though with the Cavaliers looking to re-assert themselves out East, they’ll be looking to make a statement.
There’s a lot of talk surrounding the form of Cleveland but despite their troubles they are still the deepest and most talented team in the Eastern Conference. They lost their last home game to a red hot Orlando Magic, but don’t expect lightning to strike twice, especially against a team with only one win to its name.
Look for the home crowd to get the Cavaliers going early as they are likely to build toward a big win. The Knicks will be looking to continue their good form against Cleveland though a win seems out of reach. If they can keep the damage to under 12 points and Frank Ntilikina continues to show signs of why the team drafted him, then Knicks fans should count that as a win.
Catch this one on league pass and your local channel providers. Tip off is 7 pm ET at Quicken Loans Arena.
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