Preview: Resurgent Knicks Welcome Champs to the Garden for Rematch

It’s time for New York to show they measure up against Cleveland

Photo: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Quite a bit has changed in the weeks since the NBA’s Opening Night, when the Cleveland Cavaliers and the New York Knicks faced off in Cleveland. On a night when former Knicks J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert were presented with championship rings, the new-look Knicks were promptly dismantled.

So, what’s changed since then?

  • New York, albeit during a softer part of their schedule, has been on a roll as of late. After a rough 3–6 start to the season, the ‘Bockers have won nine of their last dozen games. A few kew victories were against Detroit, Atlanta, Portland and Charlotte, who were playoff teams a season ago.
via SoundCloud/The Knicks Wall
  • Kristaps Porzingis: KP was projected to take another step this season, but few projected the offensive output we’ve seen so far from Porzingis, who’s averaging a hair over 20 points per game, and a major reason the Knicks were able to rebound after a rocky start. KP has been the only really consistent option thus far this year, with Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose playing inconsistently.
  • Derrick Rose: We touched on this in our latest podcast episode, but he’s been playing very well, especially at home. Per, Rose is playing exceptional basketball at the Garden, posting a 111 ORtg with a DRtg of 106.7. On the road, 105.3 and 112.6, respectively. Touting a 9–3 record at home, the Knicks will need more of the same from Rose tonight if they hope to beat the defending champs. Rose is a game-time decision tonight after leaving last night’s game in Miami with back spasms. (Editor’s note: Rose will be out tonight via NY Knicks PR)
  • Kyle….O’Win? Joakim Noah has been bad. This much is obvious, but nobody on the bench was able to step up to play decent minutes to cover up Noah’s early struggles. I have bashed O’Quinn a good amount, but after getting his butt whooped in Minnesota by Karl-Anthony Towns, O’Quinn has been playing like a man possessed.
via The Knicks Wall/Twitter

Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

So, with J.R. Smith out tonight after hurting his knee in Toronto, what are we looking for?

Contain Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love

This Knicks team has to clear weaknesses: interior defending/rebounding, and defensive guard play. Yes, Rose has been better, but he’s still not good on that end this season. It is absolutely imperative that Joakim Noah plays like a professional NBA center for at least 15 minutes, as he did last night, as he, Kristaps Porzingis and Kyle O’Quinn will have their hands full. Love thoroughly overmatched Porzingis in Cleveland, so KP needs to be ready for another aggressive assault from him. Love beat KP with an array of threes and layups, attacking whenever KP overcommited to either the drive or the shot.

As for Kyrie, he’s an all-world player who thrives on getting into the paint. The New York bigs need to be ready to rotate early and help protect the rim frequently.

King James

For obvious reasons. You just try your hardest and hope for the best, he’s been the most consistent player over the last decade or so. Try to keep him out of the paint, as the Cavaliers are a jump-shooting team who rely on James attacking and kicking out for open looks.

Tristan Thompson vs. Noah/O’Quinn

Noah has underperformed all year, and O’Quinn has emerged as a consummate hustle guy over the last week. If there were ever a statement game for both, it would be against Tristan Thompson, arguably the best rebounder in today’s NBA. Keep proving me wrong, O’Quinn, and also, please unblock us.

Essentially, pack the paint to prevent Kyrie and LeBron from running rampant, and if successful, this will prevent the Cleveland marksmen from doing what they do best. Good luck out there, gentlemen.

Kyle Maggio, senior writer

Watching the game or away from home? Keep up with the match with The Knicks Wall. We’ll be live tweeting tonight on Twitter and catch us on Facebook too. Don’t forget to listen to this week’s Podcast episode on SoundCloud!

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