The New York Knicks are moving closer to a playoff spot, but they are also looking to gain a measure of revenge against the NBA’s worst team on Sunday night.
New York (37-38) has a magic number of two over Charlotte to secure its first playoff berth in seven seasons. The Knicks could clinch Sunday with a victory and a loss by the Bobcats to Washington.
Cleveland (15-60) hasn’t presented a challenge to many opponents after the departure of LeBron James(notes), but three of its victories have been against New York. Anthony has played in the last two meetings, but his averages of 28.0 points and 6.5 boards have not helped deliver a win - nor have Amare Stoudemire’s(notes) 31.7 points per game and 10.3 rebounds per game in the three losses.
“That’s another big game for us,” Anthony said. “Coming down the stretch, all of these games are big for us.
“Cleveland is a team we’ve been struggling with. For whatever reason it is, we’ve been struggling with them. We just want to redeem ourselves come Sunday.”
The Knicks have gained confidence by opening this four-game homestand with consecutive victories after a six-game slide. Anthony has scored 39 points in each win, including Wednesday’s 120-116 victory over New Jersey.
“It feels good, especially right now, the time that it’s happening,” Anthony said. “Must-win situations, games that we really need coming down the stretch, getting into the playoffs, it’s almost perfect timing for me to get into a groove like that.”
Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni is concerned that his team has allowed 65 free-throw attempts in the victories. Cleveland has averaged 31.0 against New York this season.
“Somehow we’ve got to find a way to keep the intensity, defend it well, rebound it and not foul,” D’Antoni said. “And if you do that, then you’ve become a pretty good defensive team.”
The Cavaliers come to Madison Square Garden with a 5-32 road record after a 115-107 loss at Washington on Friday. They shot 53.8 percent over their previous two games before finishing at 46.3 percent against the short-handed Wizards, who were without starters Nick Young(notes) and John Wall(notes).
“I think I’m the reason we lost tonight, but I guarantee you it won’t happen again,” said Hickson, averaging 23.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in his two starts against New York this season.
The Knicks have had trouble defending big men since acquiring Anthony, and went to a more muscular starting lineup Wednesday by inserting Shelden Williams(notes) in place of Shawne Williams(notes). Shelden Williams was effective, making all three of his shots for six points and helping defend the Nets’ Brook Lopez(notes).
“Shelden’s been playing great these last couple games,” Anthony said. “(He’s) another big body, playing against Dwight (Howard), playing against Lopez. He’s really helping us out down in the paint.”