NBA League Pass, Monday Odds: Cleveland Cavs at N.Y. Knicks

Cleveland at New York
Time: 6:30 PM CT (NBA LP)
Spread: CLE -5
Total: 219

Odds c/o 5dimes

The New York Knicks have been a pleasant surprise of the 2017-18 season. The Cleveland Cavaliers, not so much. The 6-7 Cavs travel to face Kristaps Porzingis and the Knicks as 5-point favorites in a game that easily could flop the other way, especially given New York’s 6-2 mark at the Garden this season. The game will air at 6:30 (CT) on NBA League Pass, and it has an over/under set at 219 points.

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The Knicks have won seven of its past 10 contests, the last of which was a 118-91 triumph over the lowly Sacramento Kings. Porzingis hit 11 of 21 from the field en route to 34 points, and Courtney Lee had a standout game with 20 points on 7 of 9 shooting, as New York connected on 52.2 percent of its field goals and assisted 29 of its 47 buckets.

New York’s ball movement has been much improved without ball-stoppers Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose, and that subtraction has largely led to the emergence of Porzingis, by far the biggest revelation for this year’s Knicks club.

Beyond that, other new additions are proving valuable, with Doug McDermott being a steady source of outside shooting off the bench, and rookie Frank Ntilikina providing some excitement (and controversy) to the fray. New York is a hot team, winners of four of its past five, and that should bode well as the struggling Cavaliers come to town.

Cleveland has won two of its past three, with victories over the Milwaukee Bucks and Dallas Mavericks, but the team is still struggling to find its way, despite having the league’s most dynamic talent in one LeBron James. James has been sensational, but he is not getting enough help from his teammates. Despite Kevin Love and Derrick Rose combining to provide 32.8 points per game, outside of that pair the Cavs have struggled.

Cleveland still manages 110 points per game, but its defense is surrendering 113.4—which is the recipe for a losing season, quite obviously. The defensive struggles may have been the biggest surprise, given that it is usually a penchant for LeBron’s teams to defend well and play hard on both ends. One must wonder if too much time is being ceded to a declining Dwyane Wade, who has hardly defended well for his part. Nor has he been much on offense.

Wade’s decline has come precipitously, and while the Cavaliers certainly snagged him on a buddy-buddy discount, it does not make the eight points per game any more palatable. Rose has shined and begun to look more like pre-injury Rose, but there is no sense extending the charade that the Cavaliers are going to get what he once was as a Chicago Bull, anytime soon, or ever. Beyond the big names, Jeff Green has been solid, but this team is looking a lot more like a middle-of-the-pack Eastern Conference team than the three-time Eastern Conference champs it has been.

What is so strange is that so little of the blame can be directed to its team leader, which instead begs the question of what head coach Tyronn Lue can do to get more from his defense. For starters, the Cavaliers have no rim protectors, and that only exacerbates the issue with Wade and Rose being so easy to beat on the perimeter. While Timofey Mozgov may have been an expensive blunder, he is better than anything the Cavs currently have to guard the rim.

Center Tristan Thompson has only been the latest casualty to the Kardashian circus, and his career looms in the balance as he has only appeared in eight of the 13 games at 21 minutes a night—producing four points and six rebounds per game. Without Thompson emerging as a legitimate center, it casts a cloud over the entire Cavs’ defense, which again takes us back to the question: Short of a trade, to acquire a center, how can Cleveland begin to right this ship?

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