Ah, the smell of competition is in the air at Madison Square Garden. Or let’s hope that’s the odor. On Tuesday, the scorching hot Donovan Mitchell, ninth in the league with 28.4 points per game, leads the Cleveland Cavaliers (29-19) into the hallowed halls of MSG for another crack at the New York Knicks (25-23).
This will be the third time these teams have battled this season, with New York winning the last matchup 92-81. Cleveland plays at the league’s slowest pace (seriously, 30th out of 30 teams), but nevertheless, they rank eighth in the league for offense and second for defense.
The Knicks have lost four in a row, boast an ugly 11-13 record at the crib, will be without Mitchell Robinson, and might also lack Immanuel Quickley if his knee remains sore. This game could be a doozy. Tip-off’s at 7:30 p.m. EST, true believers.
Over his last ten outings, Jalen Brunson has averaged 22 points on 47% shooting, but he was a non-factor in Toronto on Sunday. Maybe he ate too much poutine and tonight will be a bounce-back game. He’ll tango with Cleveland’s Darius Garland, who can drive the lane or hit the target from deep. He has averaged 21.7 points and 8.1 assists this season while shooting a 39% from downtown on 6.2 three-attempts per game.
Quentin Grimes has averaged 11.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, and two assists over his last ten games. Like Brunson, he underwhelmed north of the border this past weekend. Defending Donovan Mitchell will be his cross to bear tonight. Spida is listed as day-to-day on the injury report due to a groin issue, but he’s unlikely to forego another chance to enthrall the Garden crowd unless seriously hurt.
Small forwards Isaac Okoro and RJ Barrett will lock horns. Okoro has averaged 5.8 points and 2.5 rebounds in 19.7 minutes per outing for the Cavs. Although he poses little threat on the offensive end, he has a respectable 110 defensive rating.
Julius Randle is averaging 24.4 points per game while shooting 33.4% from beyond the arc. He’ll face Evan Mobley, who has regressed a bit in his sophomore season but remains a dangerous foe. He racked up 38 points and nine boards on Saturday against the Bucks.
The six-year man Jarrett Allen will take on young Knick Jericho Sims at the rim. Allen has averaged 13.7 points and 9.6 rebounds in 41 games this season and is sure to keep sophomore Sims busy. Filling in for Robinson as the starting center, Sims has averaged 11 points and 7.5 rebounds in 30.8 minutes over the last two games.
The New York Knicks are 70-40 versus the Cavaliers at home all-time. It’s hard to believe they can conquer the Cavs tonight without Robinson to anchor the paint, and they certainly won’t limit Cleveland to 81 points, as they did back in December. If the result is their fifth loss in a row, then maybe a) some fires will be lit under some front office heinies, and b) we’ll appreciate the Blockness Monster all the more. Knicks by -3.
Madison Square Garden. NYC. Tuesday. 7:30 p.m. EST. Yay Knicks.