The Knicks have not beaten the hated Lakers since 2007. Without the services of Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, the 11-15 Knicks will be shorthanded against the weakest Laker team in the past few seasons. Los Angeles was unkind to the Knicks earlier this season, handing the Knicks 99-82 defeat. However, the Knicks come into tonights game with a new starting point guard. The Jeremy Lin show is 3-0 since his inception into the rotation in the New Jersey game. Tonight, Lin looks to pull another sensational performance out of his hat against a Laker team that is very strong defensively.
Here’s what to watch for:
- The Knicks must stop Kobe. The Lakers offense runs through, and usually stops at, Kobe Bryant. The 5 time NBA champ is leading the league in scoring, with 29.2 points per game, but he is also leading the league in shots taken with an average of 24 attempts per game. He’s gonna shoot the ball. Even if Bynum, Gasol, Fisher and Jack Nicholson are wide open and Kobe is triple teamed, he will shoot. Kobe averages 30.5 ppg at Madison Square Garden. He loves dominating at the garden. Iman Shumpert and Landry Fields will have the monumental task of trying to slow down the black mamba tonight. Both players have the athleticism and length to, in theory, be able to stay with Kobe but obviously it is no easy task. Last time the Knicks played LA, Balkman tried to guard Kobe and that didn’t work out too well…
- Stop the big 3. Much like the Knicks, the Lakers do not have much behind Bryant, center Andrew Bynum and finesse power forward Pau Gasol. If the Knicks can find a way to not get dominated by LA’s big 3, they’ll have a good shot to win tonight. I think Tyson Chandler can match up with and slow down Bynum. Kobe will get his but if the Knicks can somewhat contain him they will be okay. Pau Gasol is the guy who worries me tonight. While Gasol has been especially soft and often looked decrepit at times this year, he is still one of the top power forwards in the league. Jared Jeffries, who has been fantastic as of late, will have the tough assignment of slowing Gasol down. I think Jeffries stands a chance because Gasol is not tough enough to beat down Jeffries in the post. The Laker big man enjoys floating around on the perimeter and taking mid range shots. I think Jeffries is long and athletic enough to potentially give Gasol problems.
- Knicks bench vs Lakers guys not named Kobe, Bynum or Gasol. Apart from their big 3, the Lakers’ supporting cast is horrible. They’d struggle to beat the Knicks bench if the two were to square off in a street game. Derrick Fisher, Metta World Peace, Troy Murphy, Steve Blake, Matt Barnes. Do any of those names scare you? You have some serious problems if they do. They’re terrible. The Laker bench is dead last in the league in points per game at 20.1. By comparison, the Knick bench, ranked 26th, averages 26.8 ppg. The Knicks are notorious for letting mediocre players kill them and they cannot do that tonight. They are already shorthanded with no Armelo (see what I did there?) and they cannot allow Steve Blake to score 30 tonight.
- Part 4 of the Jeremy Lin show. More so than in any of these past 3 games, Lin will have to carry the Knicks on his back tonight. The Lakers interior defense is the best in the league, in my opinion, and they should provide Lin a sizable challenge. Lets see if Lin can step up again against by far the best team the Knicks have played in the “Lin era”. I think Lin will play well tonight but I’m not sure if he can put up 23 and 10 again. However, Derek Fisher is 300 years old and Steve Blake sucks and Lin should outplay his point guard counterparts. I think Lin will need to make some of his money in the mid-range game tonight as the Lakers should take away the driving lanes. If the Lakers clog the lane, shots should be open outside for Novak, Fields, Shump, Walker (gulp) and Bibby. If Lin can find those shooters and those guys can hit their shots, the Knicks are going to have a great chance tonight.
- I honestly believe the Knicks will compete tonight. I think they have a chance to win. Los Angeles is not the powerhouse they have been in the past and the Knicks do not matchup horribly with them. Bynum should have trouble scoring on Chandler and if Kobe doesn’t dominate, the Knicks have a great shot. With a victory tonight, the Knicks would be 12-15 and potentially move into the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference. A Lin victory would propel even more people to jump to conclusions but you know what, thats okay.