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The New York Knicks earned a much-needed victory by defeating a depleted L.A. Clippers team Sunday, 110-102. The win stopped a three-game slide, thanks to R.J. Barrett's monster performance. Barrett's 28 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists assured Knicks fans that they are cheering for a team that will continue to fight every time they take the court. They are going to need maximum effort again as they take on the best defensive team in the Eastern Conference on Monday night.
The Cleveland Cavaliers allow only 102.5 points per game and held Barrett to six points the last time these teams played in November. Cleveland has been money all season for bettors, covering at a league-high 65.9% rate. Interestingly, New York's 23-24 record mirrors its performance against the spread this season. Despite its recent slide and uneven performance throughout the year though, the Knicks have been a very profitable 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games.
The Knicks are 5.5-point underdogs at BetMGM and are on the road for the second leg of a back-to-back. That's not typically a situation where you want to put your money. However, the injury to Cavaliers forward Lauri Markkanen opens up some betting opportunities that are more valuable than grabbing the points with New York. Here are the two best ways bettors can back the Knicks in Monday night's matchup.
Knicks First Quarter +1.5 (-110)
If there was one takeaway from Sunday's win against the Clippers, it was how fast the Knicks started. New York came out focused, scoring 39 points in the opening quarter, which was 13.5 points above its season average. The Knicks outscored their opponents in the first quarter in their last two road games as well, one of which was a 24-point loss in Boston.
Cleveland's defense will force the Knicks to work and wear them down as the game progresses. The best time to target the Knicks is early in this game. Offensively, the Cavs will be figuring out life without Markkanen on the fly, which gives New York a chance to be competitive early. Cleveland's defense should dictate a slower pace making the additional point and half more valuable.
How many points will the Cavaliers score?
1st Half — Under 51.5 +105
The Cavs are 14-7-1 to the under at home and are welcoming a Knicks team that is playing without rest. It's the seventh time this season New York has played on consecutive nights, and the under hit in four of the previous six games. Here is where we capitalize on the loss of Markkanen. After the Cavs power forward went down Saturday night against the Thunder, Cleveland finished 6-of-27 from 3-point range. If you black out Markkanen's 3-of-4 night from behind the arc, the Cavs shot an abysmal 13%.
The Cavs should miss his shooting from the perimeter, and I'm not sure they figure things out right away against a tough Knicks defense. These two teams rank 27th and 30th in pace, so the Cavs' offense will be working with very limited possessions. I think that presents a decent opportunity to fade their first-half scoring production.