The Cavs will look to get back on track on Saturday afternoon as they take on the Knicks who have recently been eliminated from postseason play.
HOW TO WATCH
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (42-35) at New York Knicks (34-43)
Where: Madison Square Garden — New York, NY
When: 1 p.m. EST
TV: Bally Sports Ohio, Bally Sports App, NBA League Pass
Spread: Cavs +1.5
Opposing blog: Posting and Toasting
Expected Cavs starting lineup: Darius Garland / Caris LeVert / Isaac Okoro / Lauri Markkanen / Moses Brown
Cavs injury report: Evan Mobley (OUT – left ankle sprain), RJ Nembhard Jr. (OUT – G League assignment), Dean Wade (OUT- right knee surgery) Rajon Rondo (OUT – right ankle sprain), Jarrett Allen (OUT – finger), Collin Sexton (OUT – knee)
Expected Knicks starting lineup: Alec Burks / Evan Fournier / RJ Barrett / Obi Toppin / Mitchell Robinson
Knicks injury report: Miles McBride (PROBABLE – right knee soreness), Julius Randle (OUT – right quadricep), Quentin Grimes (OUT – right knee), Feron Hunt (OUT – G League assignment), Nerlens Noel (OUT – left foot), Cam Reddish (OUT – right shoulder), Derrick Rose (OUT – right ankle), Kemba Walker (OUT – not with team)
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
This game isn’t for the faint of heart. This has all the makings of a sloppy game. The Knicks have seven players listed as out and have just been eliminated from postseason play. Throw in Tom Thibodeau’s reluctance to expand the rotation and this has the makings of a team that might want to mail this one in.
The Cavs have a lot to play for but are missing their starting frontcourt in Mobley and Allen. This has led to Garland and the other remaining starters playing heavy minutes while being forced to take on increased responsibilities on both ends. Cleveland is also in the midst of a four game in five night stretch with no consecutive games in the same city.
On top of that, this is a Saturday afternoon game. Regular season mid-day games are quite rare and seem to turn sloppy rather quickly. An ugly game seems inevitable.
RJ Barrett vs. Isaac Okoro. Barrett has been carrying the scoring load for the Knicks the last few months. The former Duke Blue Devil is averaging 25.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists with .409/.336/.749 shooting splits while playing 39.5 minutes per game since the beginning of February.
While the shooting numbers aren’t exactly efficient, Barrett is averaging 8.3 free throws per game in that span and is drawing shooting fouls on 14.4% of his shot attempts this season which puts him in the 95th percentile for his position. It seems reasonable to expect his offensive responsibilities to increase with Randle out of the lineup.
Isaac Okoro will likely draw the matchup on the defensive end. We’ll see if Okoro can make Barrett a jump shooter instead of allowing him to get to the rim and naturally the free throw line which is where Barrett does the most damage.
Darius Garland and company. Garland has been forced to carry the scoring load since Allen’s injury. The third year-guard is averaging 25.2 points, 10.6 assists and 39.7 minutes per game on .413/.338/.888 shooting splits in the 13 games Allen has missed. His responsibilities on both ends have only increased since Mobley went down.
The secondary role players have not stepped up as needed offensively. Kevin Love has been in a shooting lull by his standards (34.5% from deep) since Allen’s injury. Caris LeVert is still struggling to find his fit within the team which is most evident on the offensive end. Cedi Osman has fallen out of the rotation multiple times in the last month. Lauri Markkanen has been the Cavs second best scorer since Allen’s injury, but he is not the most reliable second option on a night-to-night basis.
The cleanest path to a victory without Mobley and Allen in the lineup is to have Garland and/or a role player step up their current offensive production in a meaningful way. We’ll see if the Cavs can get either to propel them to a victory this afternoon.
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