Saturday, December 15, 2012
W2W4: Knicks vs. Cavaliers
By Jared Zwerling
The Knicks are 9-0 at the Garden and will face the Cavaliers, which are 2-12 on the road. This is a game the Knicks should win, and this season they've been taking care of business against bottom-feeders. That wasn't always the case in 2011-12.
For the Knicks to continue to build on their NBA-best home record -- the only undefeated team at home left -- they first need to limit local hometown kid, Kyrie Irving, who played high school ball at St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.). That's where we start with three things to watch for Saturday night, starting at 7:30 p.m. ET.
1. How will the Knicks defend Irving? You can bet Mike Woodson is thinking about the Nets game on Dec. 11. Even though the Knicks won, Deron Williams ran circles around the Knicks for 18 points and 10 assists. True, Williams didn't have a strong shooting night, but he covered the court like a water bug, finding his teammates open inside and outside, as the Nets built an early lead.
Tonight, Irving will be just as hard to cover off the pick-and-roll. Raymond Felton will likely start on him, but he isn't a strong defender off screens. Fortunately, Tyson Chandler covers really well in those situations, and the Knicks have been masters at rotating on the perimeter this season.
All in all, it will take the five guys on the court to stop Irving. Depending on how he does, this could be the kind of game where the reaction could be, "We need Iman Shumpert back." With such a skilled guard coming into the Garden, that would be The Rook's assignment.
2. Will Carmelo Anthony play? He is listed as questionable, dealing with, as he called it after the Lakers game, a "really sore" left ankle, knee and hip. He came down awkwardly midway through the third quarter Thursday night during a strong drive against Dwight Howard. If he can't go, we all remember how the Knicks-Heat game turned out Dec. 6. The Knicks shocked the world beating the Heat by 20 points, knocking down 18 3-pointers. As I wrote Friday, the Knicks are shooting 3s at a record rate -- and making them -- and they'll have to continue to do that tonight if Anthony sits.
This could be an opportunity for J.R. Smith to have a season-high kind of night. Also, Rasheed Wallace could take advantage of the Cavaliers' young front line on the block. It will definitely be fun to watch Sheed and Chandler go head-to-head with Anderson Varejao, who is having a career season, averaging 14 points and a league-high 14.9 rebounds per game. The Knicks especially need to watch the Cavaliers center on the offensive glass. He is averaging 5.8 offensive rebounds per game -- another top mark.
3. Will Jason Kidd relax a little? While his season average is 28 minutes per game, he has been playing more than 34 in the past three games. Against the Lakers, he nearly hit 40. Let's hope the Knicks can get off to a fast start against the 5-19 Cavaliers, so Kidd can get some extra rest. Woodson has to be careful about burning out his best 39-year-old.