New York Knicks: Three players to watch for against Cavaliers

(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

The New York Knicks will rematch with the Cleveland Cavaliers at home. Who are the players to watch for?

The last time the New York Knicks faced the Cleveland Cavaliers at home, president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry had a surprising post-game presser to express their displeasure with the team’s first 10 games. A 2-8 start seemed to put coach David Fizdale’s job on the linea, with the last loss a blowout to Cleveland.

Three games later, the Knicks sit at 3-10 after losses to the Chicago Bulls and Charlotte Hornets and a win against the Dallas Mavericks.

Well, the Cavaliers are back at Madison Square Garden for Monday, Nov. 18. New York will eye revenge and try to avoid a two-game losing streak along the way. Which players does Fizdale need to make this happen?

Frank Ntilikina

The Knicks have been torched by guards this season, as Howie Kussoy of the New York Post noted. One of the biggest culprits of this, Collin Sexton had 31 points on 10-for-16 shooting and 5-for-8 on three-pointers in the Nov. 10 win against New York.

To slow him down, Frank Ntilikina‘s defensive presence is necessary. The fan-favorite point guard has assumed major minutes in the past few weeks and remains the starter given Elfrid Payton‘s injury, so unless he avoids foul trouble (nine fouls in the previous two games), Fizdale will rely on him for another 25-30 minutes.

Julius Randle

Simply put, Julius Randle needs to play more efficient basketball. The Knicks don’t even need his numbers from 2018-19 to replicate, but for anything superior to a dreadful slash line of .423/.200/.623.

Randle’s next matchup is no simple task, as Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love come to town. Cleveland’s big men combine for 22.6 rebounds per game. Larry Nance Jr. has a thumb injury, likely removing his presence from Monday’s contest and further limiting this team’s frontcourt depth, so if Love and/or Thompson sit at any point, the Kentucky product has a chance to load up against a team that ranks eighth in opponent rebounds per game.

Dennis Smith Jr.

Combatting the Cavaliers’ guard play takes more than Ntilikina’s defense, as the Knicks will need scoring from their backcourt. RJ Barrett provides some of it, but Dennis Smith Jr., usually known as a shoot-first point guard, must offer his own production from the field.

The nationally televised win over Dallas brought Smith Jr. good karma, recovering for 13 points to have his best night of the season. The follow-up performance was quiet, however, with two points and five fouls in just 13 minutes. New York needs more than that when Ntilikina is hardly known for his points production.

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The New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers will go head-to-head at 7:00 p.m. ET on MSG and FSOH.