The New York Knicks won the first round of their way too early rematch with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Halloween night, and it was far from a scary game.
As predicted, New York controlled most of the game save for a random Cavs run here and there. It was very obvious Cleveland was shorthanded and the Knicks took full advantage in their 109-91 victory. Five players finished in double figures.
Now, the fully loaded Knicks and even more injured Cavaliers get to do it all again, this time at Madison Square Garden.
Time: Wednesday, November 1, 7:30 p.m. ET
Injuries: Ty Jerome (Ankle; OUT); Jarrett Allen (Ankle; questionable); Darius Garland; (Hamstring; OUT); Ricky Rubio (Personal; OUT); Caris LeVert (Hamstring; questionable).
Betting Line: Knicks -6.5, Over/under 211 (via DraftKings)
Key Storyline: Can Knicks build off of Tuesday’s strong team performance? As was mentioned before, five Knicks finished in double figures on Tuesday: Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, Jalen Brunson, Immanuel Quickley, and Isaiah Hartenstein. Randle in particular looked more settled in his game and finished with 19 points and ten rebounds. His shooting a rougher 5 of 14 from the field seems almost secondary.
Even more interesting is the Knicks only managed 18 assists on the night to Cleveland’s 19, and it was Donte DiVincenzo leading the way with six of his own. Star point guard Jalen Brunson only had two. This isn’t the new normal, of course, but still an encouraging sign headed into Wednesday’s tilt.
Key Matchup: Julius Randle vs. the Cavs’ frontcourt. Assuming Jarrett Allen sits out again, Randle should absolutely feast in this game. Evan Mobley can’t cover both him and Mitchell Robinson at once and Dean Wade is a glorified three-and-D. To say nothing of the fact that Cleveland’s best big behind Mobley in Allen’s absence seems to be…Tristan Thompson?
Some added context, Thompson’s only action last year was six Lakers playoff games, and he didn’t get significant minutes. Randle can thus easily have his best game of the season if he focuses on the paint and less on his range.
X-Factor: Jalen Brunson. Brunson’s gotten off to a solid start this year, averaging 19.8 points per game, but he’s been streaky. He’s shooting over 46% from three, but barely 39% overall. In fairness to Brunson, this is probably fatigue. Remember, on top of the Knicks’ run to the East Semis, he also represented Team USA in the FIBA World Cup last summer.
But with Cleveland operating with a skeleton crew and the scene shifted to MSG, this is a prime opportunity for a signature “Jalen Brunson game,” if you will. Scoring and passing with ease, and solid defense too. The Knicks are already favored to win. And if Brunson breaks out, it practically guarantees one.
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: Even with fatigue, it’s hard to imagine the Knicks losing this game. The Cavs are just down too many players. And even if Allen returns, he’ll be on a minutes restriction. This game might be a little closer, but New York still wins out at the World’s Most Famous Arena.
New York Knicks beat Cleveland Cavaliers, 106-99.