The Los Angeles Lakers are likely without LeBron James for one more game, meaning it is up to Anthony Davis to lift them over the red-hot New York Knicks on Tuesday night.
The expectation was that James would be able to return for this game, although reports are indicating that he will sit out for at least one more night to ensure his sore ankle is 100%.
New York has won 13 of its last 16 games, including a blowout win over the Lakers without James or Davis, so Tuesday night is no cakewalk.
The Knicks also are more recently coming off of a 106-100 win over the L.A. Clippers. This has largely been thanks to the incredible play of Julius Randle, who is leading the team in points (23.9), rebounds (10.3) and assists (5.9).
This is another must-win game for the Lakers given their place in the standings if they want to avoid the play-in game. They likely have to go 4-0 in their final games while also getting help from the Portland Trail Blazers to move up to sixth in the West.
L.A. is also going into this vital game without Dennis Schroder, who is hopefully nearing the end of his tenure in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. The Lakers will potentially have him back for their last 1-2 games of the regular season.
So, Davis is the man for the Lakers as they try to keep pace with the Trail Blazers. A win against the Knicks would close the gap between the Lakers and Trail Blazers to a single game, while a loss would make it an almost insurmountable two-game deficit.
Even without Schroder and James, the Lakers match up fairly well against the Knicks. Neither team will feature heavy guard play. Instead, forwards and centers will be the dominant scoring threats, with the exceptions being Alex Caruso and Derrick Rose.
Davis will have his hands full all night with Randle, as the Lakers star is one of the few players even capable of matching up defensively with Randle’s skillset. Meanwhile, Randle — who did not see Davis last time — will need the defensive performance of a lifetime. Davis is averaging 39 points and 12 rebounds over the Lakers’ last two games.
How the Lakers handle the center rotation is also interesting. The Knicks feature a center tandem of Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson. Naturally, this lends itself more to Andre Drummond and Marc Gasol and less to Montrezl Harrell. However, we’ll see if Frank Vogel wants to experiment in one of his last regular-season games this year.
Regardless of who gets the bulk of the minutes at each position, the sole goal should be to grab a win and stay alive in the race to avoid the play-in tournament. After the Knicks, the Lakers do not play a team above .500 for the rest of the regular season.
Lakers (38-30) vs. Knicks (38-30)
7:00 p.m. PT, May 11, 2021
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: TNT, Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Alex Caruso
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Kyle Kuzma
PF: Anthony Davis
C: Andre Drummond
Key Reserves: Markieff Morris, Talen Horton-Tucker, Marc Gasol, Wesley Matthews, Montrezl Harrell
Projected Knicks Starting Lineup:
PG: Elfrid Payton
SG: Reggie Bullock
SF: RJ Barrett
PF: Julius Randle
C: Nerlens Noel
Key Reserves: Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson, Obi Toppin
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