Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers have each started this young 2023-24 NBA season at…a whopping 1-2!

Talk about perfect timing for a way too early playoff rematch! And a back-to-back home-and-home, at that!

Jokes aside, the Knicks and Cavs are just about where we’d expect them to be this season. It’s too early to be concerned, but the playoff rust is real. Just asked banged-up Cleveland.

Both these games should be close, back-and-forth matchups that might even include one or two players shooting the lights out over and over again. Let’s start with the nationally televised one at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

Time: Tuesday, October 31, 7:30 p.m. ET


Injuries: Ty Jerome (Ankle; OUT); Jarrett Allen (Ankle; OUT); Darius Garland; (Hamstring; OUT); Ricky Rubio (Personal; OUT); Donovan Mitchell (Hamstring; questionable).

Betting Line: Knicks -3, Over/under 215 (via DraftKings)

Key Storyline: Will this early season playoff rematch deliver? I think MSG analyst Alan Hahn speaks for all of us regarding this game. The injuries to two of Cleveland’s starters and having such an early home-and-home on a back to back waters down the rematch. Now add former Knicks trade target Donovan “Spida” Mitchell possibly missing the game too.

Lucky for Cleveland, J.B. Bickerstaff is a great coach who gets the best out of his players. The Cavs are still talented beyond Mitchell and Garland, and could easily shoot their way to victory. Just ask former Miami guard and Knicks nemesis Max Strus.

Make no mistake. This could still be a close game with or without Mitchell.

Key Matchup: Quentin Grimes vs. Donovan Mitchell. Given Mitchell being a New Yorker, we should assume he gets plenty of treatment on that hamstring and suits up at Madison Square Garden. It’s hard to believe that he’ll actually miss this game. And in that case, he should prepare to get well-acquainted with Grimes’ defense.

The Knicks clearly like the third-year wing and picked up Grimes’ fourth-year option over the weekend. They’ll count on him to shut down Mitchell—who will probably be playing on one leg anyway—and force the Cavs’ offense to get creative.

X-Factor: Julius Randle. There’s no better time than a nationally televised playoff rematch for Julius Randle to look like himself again. His first three games, in case you missed them, were uglier than Grand Central after midnight. Granted, Randle has still posted 11.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game, but his scoring is at a pedestrian 13.7 points. Worse yet, Randle has shot less than 28% from the field, 30% from three, and only 60% from the free throw line.

To say nothing of the eight turnovers Randle committed at New Orleans on Saturday.

Randle simply needs a great performance tonight and, lucky for him, history is on his side. He’s averaged 20.2 points and 8.9 boards against Cleveland in his career. Randle has also proved efficient against the Cavs, shooting above 50% from the floor and 38.1% from three. And with Cleveland shorthanded, this is a perfect time for Randle to get back in a groove.

New York Knicks predicted starters: Jalen Brunson (PG), Quentin Grimes (SG), RJ Barrett (SF), Julius Randle (PF), Mitchell Robinson (C)

Cleveland Cavaliers predicted starters: Donovan Mitchell (PG), Max Strus (SG), Isaac Okoro (SF), Dean Wade (PF), Evan Mobley (C)

Prediction: With how injured the Cavaliers are, the New York Knicks absolutely need this game. There’s really no better setting for them to get their wheels under them and finally make shots consistently. Cleveland will have some hot streaks throughout the game, but never enough to build momentum. This really is the Knicks’ game to lose.

Knicks defeat Cavaliers, 109-95

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.