When the 35-21 New York Knicks travel to play the 20-39 Cleveland Cavaliers, it will be a tale of two teams heading in opposite directions. Surprisingly, momentum is not currently in favor of the team with the better record.
The Knicks are struggling, while Cleveland is getting hot.
New York is 4-5 over the span of its past nine games, including a 99-93 loss to the Miami Heat on Mar. 3. While that may not seem to be devastating, the Knicks blew a 59-45 halftime lead.
Cleveland, meanwhile, is 10-7 since Jan. 19. The Cavaliers also won four of their past six and fell 109-105 at the Heat.
Cleveland came back from a 64-46 halftime deficit to nearly win that game.
The question is, which one of the Eastern Conference foes can come out victorious? For perspective, the Knicks are 14-12 on the road and the Cavaliers are 11-17 at home.
As the past month has shown us, records mean very little when it comes to these two teams.
Time: Monday, Mar. 4 at 7:00 p.m. ET
TV: MSG and Fox Sports Ohio
Records: New York Knicks (35-21) at Cleveland Cavaliers (20-39)
Betting Line: N/A as of 8:13 p.m. on Mar. 3, 2013
New York Knicks Injury Report
Marcus Camby, Sprained Plantar Fascia, Questionable
Pablo Prigioni, Back Spasms, Probable
Rasheed Wallace, Fractured Fifth Metatarsal, Out
Cleveland Cavaliers Injury Report
Omri Casspi, Appendectomy, Out
Kyrie Irving, Hyperextended Knee, Probable
Anderson Varejao, Blood Clot, Out
Tyler Zeller, Illness, Questionable
Key Storyline: Knicks Need a Win
If the Cleveland Cavaliers win this game, they will experience a boost of confidence to a young team. While invaluable, the Cavs aren't playing for much more than the future.
If the New York Knicks lose, however, they will fall a full game behind the Indiana Pacers for second in the Eastern Conference.
Once a contender for the top seed, the Knicks have lost five of their past nine games. They've dropped to .5 games behind the Pacers and are in danger of finishing the season as the third-seeded team in the East.
A road win against the Cavaliers could go a long way toward stopping the bleeding.
In that same breath, a loss to an inferior opponent would do nothing but shatter their spirits. The Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire tandem continues to falter, even as they perform well individually.
Something is wrong in New York—the team needs to solve it in Cleveland.
Key Matchup: Amar'e Stoudemire vs. Tristan Thompson
Stoudemire has played well since returning to the New York Knicks, averaging 13.6 points and 4.8 rebounds in 22.8 minutes per game. He's shooting 58.1 percent from the floor and has a Player Efficiency Rating of 21.66.
With that being said, Stoudemire will have his hands full with Tristan Thompson of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
For the season, Thompson is averaging 11.3 points and 9.2 rebounds per contest. He has 20 double-doubles, including a 15-point and 12-rebound performance against Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers on Mar. 1.
Seeing as how Stoudemire plays a similar game to Griffin, Thompson could be a key factor when these two teams meet on Mar. 4.
Although STAT will continue to see his minutes limited, he will often be tasked with slowing down Thompson. Whether or not Stoudemire can keep him off of the offensive glass could decide this game.
Thompson is averaging 3.8 offensive rebounds per game—good for fourth in the NBA.
X-Factor: Jason Kidd, New York Knicks
Matched up against the Miami Heat, Jason Kidd dropped 14 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals in 34 minutes. Kidd made four of five three-point field-goal attempts and sparked a huge first half by the Knicks.
Unfortunately, Kidd made all four of those threes in the first half—he scored just two points in the second half.
The Knicks are a team that relies heavily upon the three-point shot. They average a league-high 29.1 three-point field-goal attempts per contest and look to countless individuals for three-point contributions.
The fact that Kidd had missed 14 consecutive three-point field goals entering the game had to be of a concern.
If the veteran can continue to make an impact from beyond the arc, the Knicks can take down any caliber opponent. If Kidd continues to go cold, however, they will continue to struggle.
It's on the future Hall of Famer to step up when it counts against Cleveland's explosive backcourt.
When the New York Knicks travel to play the Cleveland Cavaliers, we will learn just how powerful their resolve truly is. With the second seed slipping away from their grasp, the Knicks will show up.
Who will win?
Healthy or not, the Cleveland Cavaliers will learn how powerful desperation can be.
Every game for the Knicks is a must-win at this stage. They haven't won a postseason series since 2000 and need momentum as they approach a potential series against a dark-horse contender.
Even if Cleveland could benefit from this win, the Knicks need it.
Carmelo Anthony will come out firing, attacking the Cavaliers both in and outside of the paint. With Tyler Zeller battling illness and Anderson Varejao out for the season, look for Tyson Chandler to impose his will.
If it's healthy, Cleveland will put up a fight. Just don't bank on a win.
New York Knicks 108, Cleveland Cavaliers 96