The No. 5 seed New York Knicks will travel to the No. 4 seed Cleveland Cavaliers to start their opening round series from Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on Saturday. With these two sides neck-and-neck in the Eastern Conference standings, Cleveland comes in as a slight favorite to win the best-of-seven series at DraftKings Sportsbook.
Knicks vs. Cavaliers predictions
Odds to win series: Cavs -200, Knicks +160
Regular season record: Cavs 51-31, Knicks 47-35
Head-to-head record: 3-1 Knicks
The Knickerbockers have done well to defeat the Cavs in their past three head-to-head meetings, with Cleveland’s lone win in this year’s regular season series coming back before Halloween. In their most recent matchup (Mar. 31, with New York missing Julius Randle), the Knicks were powered by Jalen Brunson’s 48 points, winning 130-116. Cleveland was without shot blocker Jarrett Allen that night.
Pick: Cavaliers in 6 games
Despite the recent head-to-head dominance, it is quite difficult to take the Knicks over the Cavs in the series. This is largely due to uncertainty around Randle’s ankle, which can be a pesky issue for a player as large and explosive as he. Brunson is clearly a talented player, but it can be risky to rely on him consistently scoring over 40 points a night. And while we are in the backcourt, I trust the abilities of Cleveland’s Donovan Mitchell, who always plays his hometown team (Knicks) with a chip on his shoulder. Against New York, Mitchell averages 5.8 assist per game throughout his NBA career, which is his second-most versus any team. With Mitchell having a major series, I can very well see the Cavs eliminating the Knicks in Game 6 at Madison Square Garden if not earlier.