The Cleveland Cavaliers will take a short trip to New York to take on the Knicks at Madison Square Garden Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The game against the Knicks will be the fourth in five days for the tired-out Cavaliers who lost big to the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday in the team’s most embarrassing home loss since they became an NBA team. What looked like an exciting two days of basketball a month ago has now turned into another chance for the Cavaliers to add a ping pong ball to the hopper.
Believe it or not the Bucks, Cavaliers and Knicks were all in consideration for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Easter Conference. A renovation of Cleveland’s roster has changed any talks of playoffs in the Cavaliers facility. It’s been made clear that the Cavaliers are rebuilding, and injuries have not made the process any more easier. The latest to fall victim was Cavaliers rookie guard Kyrie Irving who suffered a right shoulder injury in Friday’s loss to the Bucks. With almost no one to go to at the guard position, which looked promising in the earlier season for the Cavs, Cleveland will have to most likely settle with starting Manny Harris. Harris has been playing good, but whisking him into the starting lineup before he is ready will only further expose his weaknesses on the court.
The Knicks are struggling with injuries too, but are probably really excited to be facing a team that has just as many, or maybe even more, problems with injuries. It won’t be that much more of a difference as the Cavaliers will set a new season-high for losses in a row Saturday night.
Cleveland Cavaliers (17-32, 8-15 away):
Key offensive statistics: Averaging 42.2 percent from the field (29th overall in the NBA), 35.1 percent from three (12th) and 43.0 rebounds (10th)
Key defensive statistics: Averaging 99.4 points allowed (25th), 46.2 percent from the field (26th) and 42.4 rebounds (19th)
Player to watch: With Irving most likely out for Saturday’s game with a shoulder injury the guard load will be dropped off on Anthony Parker, who has struggled to get to the hoop as of late. Parker remains the only experienced guard in the lineup, as Donald Sloan, Harris and Lester Hudson have only played a combined 19 games this season with the Cavaliers. Parker, despite and early-season injury, has played in and started 36 games alone.
Parker is only averaging 6.1 points and 2.4 assists this season, but Saturday is a perfect opportunity for him to take control of the game and be the shooting threat that he was most of last season. Parker’s performance definitely won’t affect the outcome of Saturday’s game, but the veteran guard will have to take control for at least one night.
Milwaukee Bucks (26-26, 17-10 home):
Key offensive statistics: Averaging 97.2 points (12th), 43.8 field goal percentage (22nd) and 42.5 rebounds (13th)
Key defensive statistics: Averaging 94.7 points allowed (12th), 44.1 field goal percentage (12th) and 41.7 rebounds allowed (14th)
Player to watch: Knicks guard Iman Shumpert will be looking to have a career game against the inexperienced Cavalier guards. With the likely absence of Knicks guard Jeremy Lin, Shumpert will be able to control the flow of the game at his will. The 20.3 points he has averaged in the last three games speaks for how much playing time he has gotten in the past week.
Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving, shoulder, doubtful. Daniel Gibson, ankle, out for season. Anderson Varejao, wrist, expected to return mid April.
Knicks: Tyson Chandler, groin, probable. Carmelo Anthony, groin, probable. Jeremy Lin, knee, doubtful. Amar’e Stoudemire, back, expected to return mid April. Jared Jeffries, knee, expected back early April. Bill Walker, elbow, expected to return early April.