By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Cavaliers | Quicken Loans Arena
When: Tuesday | 7:00 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York (5-14): It's been quite an entertaining couple of days for the Knicks. Last Thursday, they broke out of a slump in a big way, throttling the Nets in Brooklyn and then topping that the next night against the Magic. They averaged 25 assists per game in the two wins and set back-to-back season highs for 3-point makes, both signs that things were finally headed in the right direction. Then they lost by 41 at home to the Celtics. So now they head to Cleveland determined to show that Sunday's noon matinee was just a blip on the radar as they resume their quest to get back into the wide-open Atlantic Division race.
Cleveland (7-13): After winning fewer than 25 games in each of the three seasons since LeBron James left town, the Cavaliers were a popular pick to jump into the Eastern Conference playoff picture this year. Led by rising star point guard Kyrie Irving, many thought they had made enough moves, drafted enough talent with their 12 selections over that period, to make the leap. They've struggled through the first 20 games, ranking dead last in the NBA in points per 100 possessions; most alarming is that Irving, the one being counted on to lead the way, is shooting a career-low 39.4 percent from the field. But things could be looking up -- after a five-game skid, they've won three of four.
The Numbers Game
The Knicks became the first team in NBA history to win consecutive games by 30 or more points after losing as many as nine in a row when they demolished Brooklyn and Orlando. Unfortunately, they followed that up by suffering their third-worst home loss in franchise history on Sunday against Boston (41 points).
Matchup to Watch
Andrea Bargnani vs. Andrew Bynum
Bargnani has settled into his role on the Knicks. He operates from the top of the key and when things are working, his scoring creates space for his teammates on the wing and the low blocks. He's proven to be a capable post defender, as well, averaging a career high 1.5 blocks per game. He'll go up against Andrew Bynum, whom the Cavs signed at a discounted rate after the talented big man missed all of last season with knee problems. They have begun to reap the rewards, as Bynum has averaged 18 points on 55 percent shooting and nine boards over his last four games. He's logged 25 per contest over that time, providing a much-needed boost to Cleveland's punchless offense.
What to Look For
Following Sunday's loss, the Knicks have talked about being eager to put it behind them. Carmelo Anthony called it an embarrassment; Amar'e Stoudemire was optimistic they'd redeem themselves in Cleveland. They have an opportunity to get back on track against the Cavs, whose starting wing duo of Alonzo Gee and C.J. Miles is among the weakest in the league, averaging producing just 12 points per game between them... Coach Mike Woodson said that if Kenyon Martin can play, he'll return to the starting lineup after Tim Hardaway Jr. started when Martin couldn't go on Sunday... Stoudemire had his best game of the year with 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting (and 10 trips to the free throw line!), and could sees his workload continue to increase as a result.