New York Knicks vs Cleveland Cavaliers (3/31 @ 7:30 PM EST)
Spread: Cavs -3.5
Moneyline: Knicks +143 / Cavs -170
Overview and Betting Info
The New York Knicks (44-33) will head to Cleveland to take on the Cavaliers (48-29) on Friday night. These teams have played three times, with the Knicks winning twice. The Knicks are fifth in the East while the Cavs are four games ahead in fourth.
The Knicks are 42-32-3 against the spread this season but have failed to cover three of their last five games. They have gone over the total 39 times, including in three of their last five.
The Cavs are 41-33-3 versus the spread and have covered four of their last five games. The have gone over the total 38 times, but have been under in three of their last five.
New York Knicks
The Knicks enter Friday having won their last two games and are pretty secured in the East’s fifth playoff seed. They got a big win against the Heat on Wednesday and now will face a Cavs team that they have beaten twice this season. Those two wins were due to their defense, holding the Cavs to under 104 points in both games. New York has not had an answer for this Cavs defense, averaging 101.7 points in their three meetings. The good news is they faced a Heat team that plays similarly to Cleveland and got the nine-point win. If the Knicks can find a way to get their scoring going, expect to see them get the win on Friday.
The Knicks’ offense has struggled to find consistency most of the season, ranking in the middle of the pack in most categories. They are thirteenth in the NBA in scoring, twenty-first in field goal percentage (46.8%), twenty-second in three-point percentage (35.1%), twenty-ninth in assists (22.6 APG), and third in turnovers (12.1 TO/G). Things have been better on defense, where they rank ninth in opponent scoring (112.5 PPG), third in field goal percentage (45.9%), eighth in three-point percentage (35.1%), second in rebounds, twenty-ninth in steals (6.3 SPG), and twenty-fourth in blocks (4.1 BPG). The Knicks are 22-16 on the road this season.
The Knicks are led by a trio of Julius Randle (25.1 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 4.1 APG), Jalen Brunson (23.6 PPG, 6.1 APG, 41.0 3P%), and RJ Barrett (19.6 PPG, 5.0 RPG). Randle is their top star but will miss some time after injuring his ankle against Miami. That’s a massive loss for the Knicks, but Jalen Brunson should be able to make up for some of that scoring. The guard is coming off a low-scoring effort against the Heat, but he is making 57.8% of his attempts from the field and 48.6% from three. He hasn’t been great against the Cavs this season, but it will be hard to stop this efficient shooting. Barrett is a streaky scorer who will be called upon to step up with Randle out. He’s been cold lately, averaging just 13.7 points over his last three games. The biggest issue has been his three-point shot, as he made 27% of his attempts in the previous two months.
The Cavs are coming off a tough loss at Atlanta but have won seven of their last ten games. They’ve had an easy schedule, but the run does include wins over Miami and Boston. With just five games remaining, they have an outside shot at grabbing the three-seed away from the Sixers. They’ll have to win out, but after the Knicks, their final four games are against Indiana, Orlando twice, and Charlotte. That makes getting past the Knicks on Friday even more important.
The Cavs have been led by their elite play on defense this season. They rank first in the NBA in opponent scoring (106.7 PPG), seventh in field goal percentage (46.8%), twenty-first in three-point percentage (36.9%), twenty-fifth in rebounds (41.3 RPG), fifteenth in steals (7.2 SPG), and fifteenth in blocks (4.5 BPG). The Cavs have struggled on offense, ranking twenty-fourth in scoring (112.3 PPG), sixth in field goal percentage (48.8%), fourteenth in three-point percentage (36.4%), eighteenth in assists (24.8 APG), and seventh in turnovers (13.4 TO/G). The Cavs have dominated at home, going 30-8 this season.
Cleveland is led by their three stars, Donovan Mitchell (27.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.5 SPG), Darius Garland (21.7 PPG, 7.8 APG, 1.3 SPG), and Evan Mobley (16.4 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 1.5 BPG). Mitchell is having an incredible season and is coming off a game where he scored 44 points. He’s been efficient from the field and from three this season and is hands-down the Cavs’ top offensive weapon. Mitchel is also an elite defender, with three steals in his last two games. Garland is having another fantastic season as the Cavs’ point guard. He is a great distributor and an aggressive defender, but his three-point shot has been an issue lately. Over his last ten games, he’s made just 27.6% of his threes. The guard made 52.7% of his attempts last month, so don’t expect this trend to continue much longer. Mobley is quickly becoming one of the best young big men in the league and has been incredible of late. Over his last five games, he is averaging 20.4 points, 10.0 rebounds, and a ridiculous 3.2 blocks.
Free Pick: Under 221
Two key players in, Julius Randle and likely Jarret Allen, will be missing from tonight’s game (14.4 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 1.2 BPG). That’s two critical pieces missing in a game that is likely to lack much scoring. The Knicks will need to hit their threes to take advantage of the Cavs’ defense. However, Randle is their most prolific shooter from deep. That will put more pressure on Barrett to hit, which is usually a losing proposition.
On the other side, the Cavs already were struggling to score consistently, and now they’ll be without Jarrett down low. The center had 24 points and 12 rebounds in their last game against the Knicks, but the Cavs still only scored 103 points. Expect a low-scoring brawl between two teams that are more defensive-minded.
We’re happy to take the under in Friday’s game.