The Lakers are coming off a Monday night loss against the Brooklyn Nets. And not even 24 hours after the game ended, they’re going back at it against the New York Knicks at the fabled Madison Square Garden.
The Knicks are having a pretty good season at 27-24, where they stand 7th in the Eastern Conference. They’re attempting to make the postseason for the second time in three years after 7 straight seasons of not getting in. Tom Thibodeau has been their coach the last three seasons and, however you may feel about his coaching practices, he’s gotten results.
Our old friend, Julius Randle, is back to playing at an all-star level. He’s averaging career-best in points (24.7) and rebounds (10.8) to go with 4.0 assists. RJ Barrett has his second straight 20-point-per-game season going on (20.3). His shot hasn’t been consistent but he finds a way to score. Immanuel Quickley has stuck to the rotation (12.6 PPG). Quentin Grimes starts at shooting guard for them. And they normally have a rim protector in Mitchell Robinson but he’s out because of thumb surgery. In his place is high-leaper Jericho Sims.
Oh, yeah. They scored in free agency this summer. Jalen Brunson was the talk of the offseason. Coming off a Western Conference Finals run with Dallas, Brunson has served to become the calming influence of the team this season. He’s lived up to the hype (probably exceeded it, really) and is averaging 22.5 points and 6.2 assists. He has gotten the job done.
The Knicks are in the Top 10 in offensive rating but they will score by slowing it down. They rebound the ball a lot, particularly on the offensive end. They are first in second chance points and we know the Lakers have trouble with that. So L.A. really has to hustle against these hard-working Knicks. It’s not Pat Riley’s Knicks but teams still have to earn it against them.
The Lakers will be a bit fatigued but LeBron James and Anthony Davis did not play on Monday night. Davis is listed as probable and James will be listed as questionable for the rest of the season, I feel. No Patrick Beverley, though, and I’ll miss his innovative ways of getting a technical foul on Tuesday.
We mentioned the Lakers having to crash the boards but I also just want their role players to do better. They can’t have Dennis Schröder shooting 2 for 15. I know it’s a lot to ask but Russell Westbrook has to make better decisions (we all know his style of play, though). And I would love it if Darvin Ham can go away from four-guard line-ups.
It’s always special to play at Madison Square Garden. Hopefully, the Lakers can do something special there on Tuesday night before they sink further in the standings.