This matchup can produce a defensive showdown or yet another scoring duel, like what happened in their previous meeting. Either way, this is arguably the most evenly matched in this year’s first round of playoffs.
Catch the game on Sunday, April 16, Sunday, at 6:00 AM, Manila time.
HOME: Cleveland Cavaliers (0-0)
Projected starting five:
- Darius Garland
- Donovan Mitchell
- Isaac Okoro
- Evan Mobley
- Jarrett Allen
This upstart Cavaliers team is confident and very much in rhythm. They just recorded the franchise’s most number of wins in 28 years (excluding the two LeBron James eras). Adding to that is their defensive prowess – they allow the fewest points per game (106.9 PPG) and also own the top-rated defense in the league.
What’s also good is they are also loaded on offense. Donovan Mitchell, for one, finished seventh in scoring with 28.3 points per game, and is simply able to cut through defenses whenever he’s on. Point guard Darius Garland is pretty nice too as he puts up buckets and facilitates his teammates, racking up 21.6 points and 7.8 assists on the season. Second-year big man Evan Mobley rounds up the Cavs’ trio of primary threats with 16.2 points, 9.0 boards, and 1.5 blocks.
Mainly aiding the three will be Jarrett Allen, one of the better shot-blockers in the NBA, swingman Caris LeVert, and athletic forward Isaac Okoro.
Though this Cavs team finished just 1-3 versus the Knicks in the regular season (105.3 PPG, -3.5 net rating), we can label them the probable favorites for now given Julius Randle’s injury.
AWAY: New York Knicks (0-0)
Projected starting five:
- Jalen Brunson
- Quentin Grimes
- RJ Barrett
- Julius Randle (day-to-day) / Obi Toppin
- Mitchell Robinson
The Knicks lost their last two games of the regular season after previously stitching together five-straight wins. They averaged 123.6 points per game in that stretch with a +7.2 net rating and shot 50.9% from the field.
But yeah, it’s all about Julius Randle’s injury right now. He’s still iffy so even if he plays, he’s not expected to be at full strength. It’s a concern given that he’s providing good chunk of production, namely 25.1 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 4.1 assists. The slightly encouraging news is he’s able to run and shoot, so we’ll see Sunday.
With that, Jalen Brunson (24.0 PPG) will simply have to step up. He did so spectacularly just two weeks ago, coincidentally against the Cavs, where he poured in a career-high 48 points on their top-ranked defense en route to outduelling Mitchell’s 42 on a big 130-116 win. We can’t expect him to drop 40-plus again, but he has to up his scoring all series. Either way, third scorer RJ Barrett (19.6 PPG) should strive to be as impactful as he can be.
Leading Sixth Man of the Year candidate Immanuel Quickley, rebounding wing Josh Hary, rebounding and shotblocking specialist Mitchell Robinson, and ‘3 and D’ guy Quentin Grimes should also aim to play their roles better while their All-Star is ailing.
Handicap: The Cavs (-5.5) win and cover the spread.
Over/Under: The total goes under (214)
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