Lakers finish current home stand against New York Knicks

Lakers look to extend their three-game winning streak.

The Lakers are riding high right now with a three-game winning streak.

Their opponents for Sunday night, however? Not so much. The New York Knicks are coming into Crypto Dot Com Arena with a three-game losing streak. What’s worse is that they had just played on Saturday afternoon (a loss to the Clippers) so they’re coming in a little fatigued.

Still, the Knicks are by no means an incompetent team like in years past. They’re currently in the 6th seed at 39-30. And before this unsavory three-game skid, they had won 9 straight games. So this is actually a pretty stiff test for the Lakers.

The Lakers own an overtime win over the Knicks and that happened on January 31st. The team hadn’t gone on an overhaul yet but they had already made a deal by that point; Rui Hachimura was already on the team and he made a huge defensive play in overtime.

The biggest takeaway from that game for the Lakers was the way Russell Westbrook set the table in overtime for LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Of course, we know that Westbrook has been dealt since (part of that Clippers team that beat the Knicks on Saturday!) so it’s almost like a whole new ballgame between these two teams.

Unfortunately, Jalen Brunson did not play against the Clippers with a sore left foot and as of this writing, we have no idea if he’s ready to go against the Lakers. That would be such a downer for New York, especially since Brunson scored 37 points in their first match-up.

Yes, LeBron still isn’t available to play and fans have a legit argument that the Lakers have been playing with a main star down for nearly all of this season. But L.A. has been used to it at this point. And they have a much deeper team now than they did the last time they faced the Knicks.

Julius Randle has to carry more of the offensive load if Brunson ends up sitting out. Randle went 6 for 19 (.316) though he did end with a 23-12-5 line. He actually had a chance to win it in regulation but he got a double team early and never got a shot off. They’ll also likely rely on RJ Barrett and super sub Immanuel Quickley. Quickley scored 38 points in place of Brunson as the Knicks defeated the Celtics in Boston last week.

Mitchell Robinson didn’t play against the Lakers five weeks ago. He’ll definitely do his best to bother the Lakers inside the paint. And old friend Josh Hart was acquired before the deadline; we know how good he is in terms of guarding bigger players and rebounding.

Well, this bears repeating but the Lakers continue to have the best defense since the new guys started playing. But we’re also starting to see the Lakers have big fourth quarters. Anthony Davis closed the Warriors out last week. He also took over when the Lakers were down 6 against Memphis in the fourth. And then the returning D’Angelo Russell and the steady Austin Reaves had an electrifying final quarter to put away the Raptors. I admit to not trusting the Lakers much in the clutch this season but as of late, the new-look Lakers found their groove fairly quickly and are nothing but good vibes right now.

And maybe the good vibes will continue after Sunday. But for that to happen, it’d be great if they can take care of the ball (20 giveaways against Toronto). It would be cool if Anthony Davis can go back to his dominant self; he only scored 8 points against the lengthy Toronto team. If Davis can’t do that, though, they have a bevy of deadly backcourt players that can pick up the slack. D’Angelo Russell is as smooth as they come as a playmaker and a shooter. Dennis Schröder is such a hard-nosed player and will do whatever it takes to get the job done. Austin Reaves continues to get it done off the bench. And if called upon, Lonnie Walker IV can get buckets. It’d be great if Malik Beasley can get it going from behind the arc; he’s 13 for 48 (.271) in his last 7 games. That’s not ideal at all.

Rui Hachimura has also been an unsung hero. He scored 17 against Memphis and then 16 against Toronto off the bench. Hachimura has been really aggressive on both ends of the floor and we’d like to see that continue for the rest of the season.

Another huge game for the Lakers as we approach the end of the 2022-23 campaign. Also, a win here for Los Angeles would put them at .500 for the first time this season. They’ve really come a long way, haven’t they? But one slip-up could be the end. And right now, the Lakers can’t afford any of them.

What they can afford? A fourth straight win is what they want to buy.

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