Remember last year’s Cleveland Cavaliers? They finished 22-50 and 13th in the Eastern Conference. Pushovers! In his 2021-22 season preview, palm-reader John Hollinger reviewed their off-season moves and predicted the Cavs to underperform again: 28-54, 13th in the Conference.
Tonight, the New York Knicks (23-24) roll into Cleveland for the second of a back-to-back, and the host ain’t no pushover anymore.
On Saturday, the Cavs (28-19) beat the Thunder 94-87. Cleveland’s finest have won seven of their last 10 and sit fifth in the East. Although they are middling offensively, their defense is stellar. They possess the league’s third-best defensive rating, behind only the Warriors and Suns. If you seek the rim in Cleveland, bring a chainsaw because there are serious frontcourt trees.
This will be the second of three meetings between the Knicks and Cavs this season. Cleveland took the first game, 126-109, thanks to Ricky Rubio’s career-high 37 points (naturally). The Knicks couldn’t recover after losing the third quarter 33-18. Julius Randle led the team with 19 points and seven boards.
The Knicks are coming off an impressive 110-102 win over the Clippers yesterday. Will they make it two in a row?
Magic 8-Ball says to ask again later. Tip-off’s at 7 p.m., spaniels.
Third-year man Darius Garland (6’1”, 192 lbs, Aquarius) tops the Cavaliers in points per game (19.8) and assists (eight). The 21-year old playmaker is shooting 47% from the field and 37% from the perimeter on 6.9 attempts. The Auburn alum has a great motor and makes his damn free throws (91%, fourth in the league). After resting on Sunday, Kemba Walker (Taurus, really?) is slated to square off against the promising Hoosier.
Issac Okoro (6’5”, 225 lbs, Aquarius) has averaged nine points in his sophomore season. The small forward will likely draw Evan Fournier, which could be the Knicks’ most profitable match-up if Evan the Scorpio is on the mark.
The Cavs’ experiment of running three centers in their starting line-up is working. Lauri Markkanen (6’11”, 240 lbs, Gemini) has averaged 13.6 points and 5.3 rebounds. Positionally a five on most other teams, he’ll probably pair up with RJ Barrett (6’6”, 214 lbs, Gemini) tonight, who notched his fourth double-double of the year yesterday. Keep those arms high, Maple Mamba.
Another titan is Rookie-of-the-Year candidate, Evan Mobley. The 6’11”, 215 lbs Gemini grabbed a season-high 17 rebounds and 15 points on Saturday night and is averaging 15 points and 7.8 boards in his inaugural season.
In their November meeting, of the seven rebounds collected by Randle (6’8”, 250 lbs, Sagittarius), zero were offensive. In fact, the Knicks were out-rebounded 48-32 and tallied only seven offensive boards total. Sigh.
Their third starting center, Jarrett Allen (6’10”, 243 lbs, Taurus) cooked the Knicks for 18 points and 17 boards in November. The fifth-year man out of Texas leads the Cavs with 10.9 rebounds per outing and is second in points with 16.3.
Mobley ranks sixth in the league with 1.7 blocks. Allen is 12th with 1.4. New York’s own Blockness Monster Mitchell Robinson (Aries) had eight points and seven rebounds the last time out against these gargantuans. He tweaked his ankle in the Clippers game but should be good to go tonight.
These Cavs have already amassed all the wins that Hollinger predicted for them, and the All-Stars are yet to mount their spectacle weekend. Cleveland converts around the rim with the league’s sixth-best scoring percentage from under five feet, so New York needs to cut off the interior pass and beware the backdoor-oops. The good news is, those gangly Cavs are almost as slow (22nd in pace) as the Knicks (30th). Don’t expect too many foot races.
Tonight, if the Knickerbockers play with the strength of the bull, the even-keeled intelligence of Aquarius, and the creativity of Sagittarius (plus, you know, they make their shots) then Magic 8-Ball says they have a chance.
Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Monday. 7 p.m. Dazzle ’em, Knickerbockers!