Current Standings - New York: 35-21, 3rd in the Eastern Conference (7.5 behind the Miami Heat), 1st in the Atlantic Divison (Leading the Brooklyn Nets by 3 games) Cleveland: 20-39, 12th in the Eastern Conference (24 games behind the Miami Heat), 5th in the Central Division (Last place, 17.5 games behind the Indiana Pacers).
Previous Meeting - The Knicks defeated the Cavaliers 103-102 at Madison Square Garden on December 15, 2012.
What To Watch For - After dropping an astounding career high 41 points in the previous meeting between the two teams, one of the NBA’s most promising stars in Kyrie Irving will be questionable tonight with a hyper-extended knee. Irving will have a massive impact on the game, so that remains a key factor to monitor until game-time. Although Irving has missed the past three games due to the injury, the Cavaliers are 4-2 since the All-Star break, and 9-2 in their last 11 games facing Eastern Conference opponents. Add in that they are 6-0 on their home court during that stretch, and the Knicks haven’t won at the Q in the last six years, and we can have a recipe for nail-biter.
Injury Update – Cleveland – Kyrie Irving (Hyperextended knee, Questionable) Anderson Varejao (Vastus Medialis Split, Out), Omri Casspi (Appendectomy, Out) New York - Rasheed Wallace (Fractured Left Fifth Metatarsal, Out) Marcus Camby (Plantar Fascia, Questionable).
Key Matchup - Alonzo Gee, the Cavaliers best on-ball defender, will most likely be assigned to Carmelo Anthony tonight, leaving power-forward Tristan Thompson in a tough spot. Due to the Knicks three-guard starting lineup, Thompson will need to defend one of those guards, which makes the bench for both teams a much more important factor in the game. The Knicks bench vs. the Cavs bench will be a key piece to the game because of how differently the starting lineups matchup. Between the Knicks having the fire power of JR Smith, Stoudemire, and the veteran Kidd coming off the bench, it will be interesting to see how they size up with the the Cavaliers 6th highest bench scoring average in the month of February, with 40.9 points per game.
Knicks Win If – If the Knicks fly out of the gate tonight with plenty of energy and effort, they shouldn’t have a problem. A 3rd seed should generally dominate a 12th seed whether it’s home or away, but the Knicks have proved they can drop a dud any night. With James White currently in the starting lineup, the bench play becomes that much more important. The Knicks have been struggling all season long to find that every night #2 scoring option, and I believe it’s Amare Stoudemire’s time to be rewarded more minutes. Stoudemire is shooting an incredible 74 percent from the field in his last five games, and it’s time the Knicks start riding him out. If Jason Kidd finds a way to shoot the ball like he did on Sunday, the Knicks must take advantage of that, and try to close this game early.
Cavaliers Win If – If Irving plays, and lights it up, the Knicks will be in store for a long night. The Knicks go as Anthony goes, and if they can find a way to keep him down on planet Earth tonight then they have a legit shot at getting this win. If JR and Kidd come out as cold as ice, life for the Cavaliers will be much easier to come by. If the Cavs can dominate the glass, they will be able to play at their own tempo throughout the game. The Knicks have shown they lack composure occasionally, and if the Cavs can get in there head, they’re the ones that can end this night early.