Knicks @ Cavaliers 7:30 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 1050 AM
The Knicks held a practice session at Madison Square Garden Training Center for the first time since the All-Star break. In a rare opportunity for the coaching staff to work on offensive and defensive schemes, New York was also delighted to welcome back big man Josh Harrellson and versatile rookie Iman Shumpert. The additions of those two players make the Knicks an extremely deep team heading into the stretch run as they sit at 17-18 and in the seventh spot. The extra day of rest will certainly help Jeremy Lin, Landry Fields, and Carmelo Anthony after they represented New York during All-Star Weekend. Fields and Lin completed their events on Saturday while Anthony participated in a competitive Sunday night matchup between the East and West. Anthony nearly posted a double-double with 17 points and nine boards.
On January 25, the Cavaliers registered a surprise win over the Knicks while improving to 7-10. A lottery team heading into the season, Cleveland was not expected to hover around the .500 mark or compete for a playoff spot. A glance at the Eastern Conference standings show the Cavaliers have a shot at accomplishing both tasks, just 2.5 games behind the Celtics for the eighth position. The 13-19 Cavaliers have a bright future with Kyrie Irving running the point and showcasing his skills during the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night with 34 points. Last night, Anthony Parker returned to the floor and head coach Byron Scott decided to place him in the starting lineup. Anderson Varejao wil continue to miss significant time due to a broken right wrist he sustained in a game against Milwaukee on February 10. Cleveland is facing a rough schedule with four of its next six games on the road and five of those contests are against playoff contenders.
Last Time Out
New York suffered a 102-88 loss to the Heat in downtown Miami last Thursday night.
Despite only scoring 15 points in the first quarter and 17 in the fourth quarter, the Cavaliers fought the Celtics until the final buzzer in an 86-83 home defeat.
The Numbers Game
New York fans should have been cheering for Steve Novak during All-Star Saturday Night. The Knicks sharpshooter ranks No. 5 in the league in three-point percentage at 45.7 and deserved a chance to compete in the Three-Point Contest.
Match-up to Watch
Jeremy Lin vs. Kyrie Irving
Irving is showing no signs of slowing down as he recorded 24 points behind an efficient 8-for-14 performance from the floor against the Celtics. The 2011 No. 1 overall pick played 27 minutes, hit all three of his shots from downtown and was 5-for-5 at the charity stripe. In the first meeting against the Knicks, Irving struggled with only seven points in a Cavaliers victory. Irving is starting to heat up and will be a difficult challenge for Lin on the perimeter. On the opposite side, Lin will search for a bounce back game after the Heat suffocated him and limited the 23-year old to just eight points on 1-for-11 shooting. The two young point guards are essential to their team’s success and this specific matchup will be intriguing considering both players are now considered the future stars at their position.
What to Look For
The first matchup on January 25 was a sore spot for the Knicks as they felt the offense finally gained some steam after a blowout victory over Charlotte. On February 29, the New York squad looks completely different than the team that fell to the Cavaliers over a month ago. Head coach Mike D’Antoni now has Lin in the starting lineup, Shumpert, Harrellson, J.R. Smith, Steve Novak and Baron Davis jumping off the bench to give the Knicks major ammunition. Not to mention this is a team with superstars Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, and defensive specialist Tyson Chandler roaming the paint. However, the time for judging New York on paper is over and this team must string together wins with 31 games left in the season. In this specific contest, the Knicks should have enough offensive firepower but they will need to pound the glass as the Cavaliers rank No. 8 in rebounds per game.