Pregame: 5 Things to Know - Knicks Return to Work, Face LeBron and Defending Champs in Cleveland

1. The Knicks return to the hardwood on Thursday night for a nationally televised tilt against the defending champs. Prior to the All-Star break, New York suffered a 116-105 defeat to the Thunder in Oklahoma City last Wednesday night. The Knicks scored 39 first quarter points and Carmelo Anthony posted 30 in the road loss while Russell Westbrook chalked up another triple-double with 38 points, 14 rebounds, and 12 assists.

2. Joakim Noah did not participate in Tuesday and Wednesday’s practice sessions at MSG Training Center. The big man continues to nurse a sore left hamstring that has kept him on the sidelines for five straight games. Noah is not expected to suit up for tonight’s contest in Cleveland. Courtney Lee is suffering from an illness, which could limit his minutes tonight. Brandon Jennings is prepared to return to the floor after missing the game against Oklahoma City with a sore left Achilles.

3. With 25 games remaining in the regular season, the Knicks remain in the playoff hunt, trailing Detroit by just four games. The Pistons are clinging to the final spot at No. 8, ahead of Milwaukee by a game, Miami (2 games), and the Hornets (2.5 games).

4. Kevin Love missed his opportunity to appear in the All-Star game in the midst of his best season with the Cavaliers. This season, Love was averaging 20 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. Just before All-Star Weekend, Love underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove a loose body from his left knee. He will be sidelined for tonight’s contest and missed the final game before the All-Star break against the Pacers. Channing Frye was placed in his spot in the starting lineup while the Cavaliers defeated Indiana 113-104 for their third straight win.

5. Cleveland is 8-2 in its last 10 outings and Washington is the only team in the Eastern Conference with a better record (9-1) over that time span. At 39-16, the Cavaliers are at the top of the Conference and hold an impressive 24-5 record at home. LeBron James is once again enjoying a stellar season by leading his team in three statistical categories, averaging 25.9 points, 8.8 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. Cleveland is 3-0 against the Knicks this season entering the final matchup tonight. The previous contest at MSG was the most competitive in a 111-104 Cavaliers victory, spearheaded by James’ 32 points. Kyrie Irving did not play in that game and will be starting in tonight’s season series finale.

by Jonah Ballow @jonahballow

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