Lakers miss golden opportunity in loss to New York Knicks

The Lakers' three-game winning streak has been halted.

I said in the preview that the Lakers couldn’t afford to slip.

It’s exactly what happened against the New York Knicks. A Knicks team without Jalen Brunson. But it was still a capable team as they defeated the Lakers in Los Angeles, 112-108. They missed a chance to go to .500 for the first time this season and, more importantly, stay in the play-in picture. Unfortunately, the loss knocked them out of the Top 10 in the West.

It was yet another close game between the two teams as neither team ran away from the other for pretty much the entire contest. The Lakers actually did good in the third quarter as they scored 12 unanswered at one point. Troy Brown, Jr’s free throws gave L.A. an 86-85 lead going into the fourth.

I had mentioned the fourth being really good to the Lakers in their last three wins. Not so much this time around. The Knicks seemingly got inside at will as they went on a 13-3 burst. The Lakers trailed, 106-96, with five minutes to go. It was still a 10-point deficit about two minutes and change later.

The Lakers refused to give up. Los Angeles scored four straight field goals as they were able to cut the lead to 110-108 with 19 seconds left. Unfortunately, they were unable to foul the Knicks immediately as precious seconds ticked away. Finally, they were able to catch former Laker Josh Hart with five seconds left. Hart didn’t succumb to the pressure, though, as he made both foul shots. That turned out to be the final tally as the Lakers’ three-game win streak was over.

It’s not like the Lakers laid down but it’s still disappointing. The Knicks seemed to overpower them in the paint (55-50 edge in points in the paint by NYC). They also outboarded the Lakers by 9 and New York was seemingly getting to the ball faster in the fourth (12 rebounds to 6 in favor of the Knicks).

Julius Randle played huge in Jalen Brunson’s absence. He finished with a 33-8-5 line. RJ Barrett scored 13 of his 30 points in the all-important final period. Immanuel Quickley had 15 points while Isaiah Hartenstein came off the bench to grab 11 boards. New York just imposed their physicality on the Lakers.

D’Angelo Russell scored 33 to lead L.A. but it was very noticeable that he only scored two points in the fourth. Anthony Davis blamed himself for playing terribly but he still had 17 points and 16 boards. The bench came through again as they outscored New York’s subs, 43-25. But it wasn’t enough to get their fourth straight win.

If anything, we can look at the free throw performance. They missed none of their 19 foul shot attempts against Toronto. But against the Knicks, they went 10 for 17 for a .588 clip. Anthony Davis was shooting .810 coming into Sunday and he went 1 for 5.

With the return of Mitchell Robinson and the addition of Josh Hart, the Knicks were able to overpower the Lakers in the trenches. We know Robinson’s shot blocking prowess. And we’ve known Josh Hart to be unafraid in terms of guarding bigger players and crashing the glass. You also add Isaiah Hartenstein and Julius Randle and the chances of the Lakers winning the rebounding battle… drastic go down.

The loss brought the Lakers down to another four-way tie at 33-35. Officially, they’re 11th place after all the tiebreakers are tabulated. It’s too bad because they had a chance to move up into a three-way tie with Minnesota and Dallas. Yes, they’re very much still in the mix but now the Lakers have to bounce back because a loss like this can be demoralizing. And at this point, I feel like they’re in control of their own destiny here.

They do have a chance to make up ground as they take on one of the teams they’re tied with on Tuesday, the New Orleans Pelicans. And their quest to .500 is also going to have to wait.

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