Coming off a moral victory and 94-84 loss to the San Antonio Spurs, the New York Knicks travel to Cleveland to take on LeBron James and the Cavaliers who are 3-1 to start the season. The matchup between Carmelo Anthony and James is always a much-anticipated watch, but with Anthony’s inconsistent scoring and questions still lingering about his comfortability on his knees, can he rise above adversity and lead his team to victory?
It's a good question, but this is not the Knicks team of the past. If the new and united Knicks can put on a similar performance that they had against the Milwaukee Bucks in the season opener, in which every Knick suited up scored, seven of them scoring in double digits, the pressure on Anthony might be more easily lifted.
The most troublesome worry going into this game for the Knicks, aside from going up against elites like James and Kevin Love, is probably the starting backcourt of Jose Calderon and Sasha Vujacic. Though Coach Derek Fisher stubbornly stands by this backcourt, their offensive abilities aren't the problem. Their defense is a liability and so Knicks fans should be prepared to watch LeBron and Co. blow right past them.
In the Knicks favor is the absence of Iman Shumpert, Kyrie Irving, and J.R. Smith who bruised his right knee in the Cavs' 107-100 win over the Philadelphia Sixers. Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis, who recorded his first double-double of the season against the Spurs with 13 points and 14 rebounds, suffered a soft-tissue injury after Anthony went up for a basket and landed on Porzingis’ head, but he is probable to play against the Cavaliers after passing concussion tests. Following a game in which he had a huge putback dunk over LaMarcus Aldridge and displayed flashes of great defense, having Porzingis on the floor will be encouraging and needed to stop some of the Cavs' offensive onslaught.
Also in the Knicks favor is the fact that James' history against the Knicks, at least last season, isn’t as impressive as his recent feats. In fact, in their three-game series last season, James averaged 18 points on less than 40 percent shooting and committed 16 turnovers. Remember, it was the 17-win Knicks that spoiled James’ homecoming in the Cavaliers season opener, winning 95-90. Anthony had 25 points in that game. Imagine what this Knicks squad can do if the stars align right.
James, however, is coming off of a game against Philadelphia in which he accomplished one of the greatest feats of his star-studded career. One rebound shy of a triple-double, James became the youngest player in the history of the sport to record 25,000 points, surpassing Laker legend Kobe Bryant. Coach David Blatt called the accomplishment, “a testament to [Lebron’s] greatness.” It is one of many testaments, but the Knicks look to control the beast tonight, and improve their record on the road to 3-0.