Good afternoon errrbody. Tonight the Knicks face what I’m pretty sure is the ’86 Celtics in what’s sure to be the grudge match of the year. To me, games like this come down to how seriously a team takes its job. I’m watching the Spurs as I write this – their businesslike mentality is palpable and it reflects in their play. They’re running their sets, preparing themselves for the playoffs and establishing their baseline of intensity so that come playoffs time, that intensity is rote. As my college baseball coach would say, they know no other way.
The Knicks know a dozen ways. They’re competitors with a sense of the moment like everyone else, and I’ve harped endlessly about “the switch” that we’ve seen them flip when it’s time to strap in against the elite teams. But they don’t have the mentality we see in the Spurs, Celtics, Lakers, etc. – they don’t treat every game like it’s their job. They treat every fourth game like it’s summer camp.
With a win tonight, New York would be within one win or Charlotte loss of clinching a playoff spot and a chance to topple the Celtics or Heat. How strange, then, that it’s taking care of business against the league’s worst team that might do the most to convince me they can match intensity with the league’s best.
We have an early start this evening: 6 PM tip.
PG – Baron Davis: Shot 47% 3PT in March, and has buried multiple treys in all but one game with the Cavs (although he’s missed nine with injury).
SG – Anthony Parker: Shooting 65% in three games against the Knicks this year, which is less an indictment of Landry Fields and more a reminder of how poor the team defense has been. What potent offensive threat were they rotating to, that Parker has been left open time and again?
SF – Alonzo Gee: Only averaging about 25 minutes a night since cracking the starting lineup.
PF – Kareem Abdul-Hickson: Should be shooting better than 45%. A 20-point scorer in three of his last four games, with 12+ rebounds in four of five.
C – Ryan Hollins: Looks and plays like he’s afraid of being benched. A seven-footer who averages a rebound every six minutes – that’s Brook Lopez territory!
He Won’t Stop, Manny Harris, He’s on Top, Manny Harris, Make Eyes Pop, Manny Harris: This is Manny Harris’ Twitter page, which includes a background photo of Brandon Jennings blowing past him. That’s called brand management. The page also has a link to this gem, a Manny Harris tribute song that sounds like something you would play to POW’s on a 24-hour loop. It actually includes the lyric, “His game gon’ make you throw up.”
Cavs Rotation: Semih Erden is likely to miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury, and Samardo Samuels has missed the last three games with a sprained wrist, leaving the Cavs awfully thin up front. If Samuels doesn’t dress it’s up to Luke Harangody to provide the backup muscle. Seriously, that’s all they’ve got. Between these two teams’ frontcourts, this is the game Butler’s Matt Howard watches to convince himself he’s an NBA player.
Elsewhere, Gee has been getting the starts at small forward as a sort of stretch three, but I would expect to see some of Joey Graham, who has been out of the rotation lately and took a DNP-CD Friday in Washington – he’s the lone Cavalier wing play with the size to check Carmelo Anthony.
At guard, Ramon Sessions has scored 50 points in his last two games, and the Cavs will be happy to trot out multiple point guard lineups with Sessions, Davis and Boobie Gibson.
Knicks Rotation: Ronny Turiaf is expected to play tonight after missing three games with a…you know what, I’m not even going to bother looking up what he had. I think it was a bad ankle. Tomorrow it will be something else. Move along.
Haven’t been able to find updates on Shawne Williams and his back spasms, so I’m assuming he’s good to go.
We have Cleveland’s starters, but that doesn’t mean we have their finishers. This team is trying to decide which of their players will help them moving forward, and the first three quarters of every Cavs game are basically an audition for who gets the crunch-time minutes. Lately Mike D’Antoni has been using Toney Douglas over Landry Fields at the end of games, but Cleveland will have no problem going small to counter that look. I’d love to see the Knicks keep the Cavs honest in crunch time by going back to Fields; it would help control the boards and give the Knicks a mismatch that Sessions would be unable to exploit with his poor outside shooting.
Enjoy the game if possible, and Mike will be along with the recap.