The 1-3 New York Knicks take on the 3-3 Cleveland Cavaliers today in a battle between two teams with very different aspirations this season (7pm ET Sunday).
New York just got its first win of the season on Friday, beating the Brooklyn Nets 107-86 after losing its first three contests by an average of more than 15 points. The team shouldn’t be expecting to win many games this year.
Cleveland’s start has been mediocre, as the team is suffering some injuries and growing pains as it adjusts to new players. The squad’s defense is still unreliable, though the Cavs made it all the way to the Finals a year ago with significant questions about its performance on that side of the floor.
The Cavs are the definite favorites for today’s contest, but the Knicks could make things interesting. Read on for some keys to the contest before we conclude with this preview’s picks and betting predictions’ advice in an effort to get the better of the top recommended USA sportsbooks and their betting lines.
Is Anyone on the Cavaliers Up to Guarding Kristaps Porzingis?
Undoubtedly the best development from the Knicks in their early-season futility has been Porzingis’ dominant offensive play.
Some people questioned whether he would be able to shoulder the load of being the No. 1 scoring option with Carmelo Anthony gone, but he has delivered. He has scored at least 30 points in three of New York’s four games and is averaging 26.5 points per contest while turning the ball over just 1.5 times a game.
Cleveland doesn’t have an obvious candidate to guard the versatile 7’3” forward. LeBron James, Jae Crowder, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson probably will all take turns on him, but none of them appear to have the combination of size, quickness and defensive intensity to guard him effectively all game. We’ll see if any of those four guys ends up taking on the challenge admirably.
Is Anyone on the Knicks Up to Guarding LeBron James?
This is the bigger concern. The Cavs might have some trouble with Porzingis, but the Knicks look like they could have much more trouble with James, the best player in the NBA.
New York’s starting wings are Tim Hardaway Jr and Courtney Lee. James is at least two inches and 50 pounds heavier than both players, and neither is known for their ability to lock up offensive superstars on the wing (such as LeBron).
Lance Thomas (6’8” and 235 pounds) could be a decent option off the bench, but LeBron is so much more explosive than him. The 13-time All-Star could have a field day scoring and dishing the rock tonight if Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek doesn’t devise a good plan for defending him.
Can Tim Hardaway Jr. Start to Live Up to His Role as the Knicks’ Second Option?
Hardaway came to the Knicks over the summer on a four-year, $72 million contract that most pundits deemed a huge overpay. He had been a good scorer off the bench for the Atlanta Hawks, but not much more than that in terms of an overall player.
Once Carmelo Anthony left, though, Hardaway naturally slid into the role of No. 2 scoring option for the Knicks. He is attempting 12.3 shots per game, the most on the team besides Porzingis. Unfortunately, just 3.3 of those looks are following, which equates to a field-goal percentage of 26.5.
Hardaway is one of those microwave scorers who can get really hot after hitting a couple in a row. He had 23 games with at least 20 points in an Atlanta uniform last season — many of those performances came off the bench.
Our Preview’s Knicks vs. Cavs Picks & Betting Predictions
The Cavs are coming off a pathetic performance against the New Orleans Pelicans yesterday (Saturday), losing by 22 points on the road. It is a back-to-back for them, but the team’s starters didn’t play that many minutes because of garbage time.
New York could be headed for a letdown performance, and the Cavs could be eager to bounce back one night after their poor performance at home.
- Cleveland is 9.5pts favorite against New York with all the bookies as we write this preview. Our betting prediction is to go with the Cavs -9.5pts @ -110 with any of Bovada, Betonline, Bookmaker or 5Dimes.
- I was surprised to see the over/under as low as 210pts with all of the offshore bookies. Sure, the struggling Cavs’ defense could rebound a bit, but these are still two teams who struggle to stop opponents from scoring. Tim Hardaway Jr. is not going to keep shooting this poorly for the Knicks, either. Take the over 210pts @ -110 with Bookmaker, Bovada, BetOnline or 5Dimes.