The Los Angeles Lakers, coming off of an ugly loss on Wednesday night, hope to get back on track against the lowly New York Knicks.
The big story for this game will be injuries, and how the Lakers react to them. Rajon Rondo is sidelined for at least another three weeks after having his second hand surgery of the season.
LeBron James has made progress towards a return, but remains out of the lineup with a strained groin and won’t be re-evaluated until late next week. And now, Kyle Kuzma remains questionable after receiving treatment for a lower back contusion suffered in Wednesday’s loss.
Should Kuzma miss the game, the Lakers two primary sources of offense will be sidelined, and they will have to find ways to score. Aiding that could be Michael Beasley, as he has re-joined the team.
Beasley last played Dec. 7, but Lakers head coach Luke Walton said the veteran forward will be an option to fill in against his former team should Kuzma be unable to play.
Also working in the Lakers’ favor is they’re playing a Knicks team that is awful defensively. They rank in the bottom seven in every single defensive statistic, including second-to-last in defensive rating.
The Lakers will need to take advantage of this if they want to find an offensive identity without their best scorers.
A lot of the scoring will fall into the hands of Brandon Ingram, who after one of his best performances of his career against the Sacramento Kings, struggled mightily against the Oklahoma City Thunder, shooting just 8-for-21 and committing 5 turnovers.
The Knicks are also not a great team offensively. Without Kristaps Porzingis, who is still recovering from a torn ACL, most of their offense has been with Tim Hardaway Jr., who’s averaging 20.6 points per game. He’s the team’s leading scorer, followed by Enes Kanter at 14.4 points.
While the Knicks are not a headline opponent, it is absolutely vital the Lakers get the win. Starting Friday, the Lakers face seven straight opponents currently not in the playoffs. In a wild Western Conference, where three losses in four games drops you from fifth to eighth, having seven straight winnable games can be huge.
If the Lakers can find momentum tonight and go on to win most of their next seven games, they could reestablish themselves among the elite teams in the West.
Los Angeles Lakers (21-17) vs. New York Knicks (9-29)
7:30 P.M. PT, Jan. 4, 2019
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Lonzo Ball
SG: Josh Hart
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Lance Stephenson
C: JaVale McGee
Key Reserves: Michael Beasley, Tyson Chandler, Svi Mykahiliuk, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Projected Knicks Starting Lineup:
PG: Emmanuel Mudiay
SG: Tim Hardaway Jr.
SF: Kevin Knox
PF: Luke Kornet
C: Noah Vonleh
Key Reserves: Enes Kanter, Frank Ntilikina, Allonzo Trier
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