The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off of an impressive double overtime win against the Chicago Bulls and are beginning to find some semblance of offensive balance. Six Lakers scored in double figures and Wayne Ellington in particular has been stellar in a starting role. They bring this momentum into Madison Square Garden today to face a dysfunctional Knicks team that is struggling under the President and head coach duo of Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher. The Knicks are one of just two teams that have single digit wins on the season and the Lakers will look to keep it that way.
Carmelo Anthony has been the face of the Knicks franchise for several years now, but has struggled to pile up wins despite playing in the East. Although he is a fantastic isolation player, NBA offenses have evolved and isolation plays are increasingly being seen as low efficiency over the long run. That said, Anthony remains a premier scorer, averaging 24.1 points to go with 6.6 boards and 3.1 dimes a game. Unfortunately his scoring prowess hasn’t translated into team success, leaving the Knicks out of the thick of the playoff race. This, coupled with injury concerns, may result in the Knicks shutting Anthony down at some point in the season, but he is expected to play today.
At the four and five, the Knicks start a pair of replacement level guys. Lou Amundson is a classic high motor player, but he lacks any dependable offensive moves. The eighth year veteran holds career averages of 3.6 points and 3.5 rebounds in 12.6 minutes a game and will more or less be looking to put back offensive rebounds on offense. Jason Smith is the starter at center and he always seems to find his way into a starting lineup following an injury to the incumbent. Smith will deal with inconsistency on the offensive end as he primarily relies on others to generate open looks for him. Defensively, neither player is a rim protector and Jordan Hill may very well pick up where he left off with his big game against the Bulls.
Jose Calderon is the lead guard for the Knicks and although he’s lost some of his effectiveness, he can still be a tremendous playmaker in any one game. He has been particularly effective in that department as of late, averaging 5.6 assists in a limited 21.2 minutes per game over his last four. Thus far, he has struggled from the field, but is shooting 41.0 percent from deep. Defensively, Calderon is well below average and should struggle with the quickness of Jordan Clarkson and Jeremy Lin.
Perhaps the lone bright spot for the Knicks this season has been Langston Galloway. Although he is a natural point guard, he has shown the ability to score in bunches and will start next to Calderon at off guard. An undrafted rookie from St. Joe’s, Galloway’s hot streak has been described by Carmelo Anthony as reminiscent of Jeremy Lin’s “Linsanity” run during his time as a Knick. In addition to scoring, Galloway brings another playmaking skill set to the Knicks’ backcourt. He has been especially hot as of late, scoring in double figures in five of his last six games.
Keys to Victory:
Play From the Inside Out: Jordan Hill is coming off a 26 point, 12 rebound performance and should have a tremendous opportunity to follow this up with another big game. He should see plenty of Lou Amundson and Jason Smith, both of whom are fringe-NBA players at best. If he remains aggressive and looks for his shots in the paint, he should have himself another fine game. That said, he has had a tendency to fall in love with his free throw line jumper and doing so today would be a waste of a plus matchup.
Shut Down Carmelo Anthony: Anthony is a perennial All Star currently surrounded by a sub-par supporting cast of players as can be seen by the Knicks’ 9-38 record this season. The Lakers need to focus on shutting Anthony down as he is the only player on the Knicks who can regularly create his own shot. Byron Scott would be wise to give Wes Johnson a little more run in this game as he is the Laker best suited to slow Anthony down.
Los Angeles Lakers (13-34) at New York Knicks (9-38)
11:00 AM PST, February 1, 2015
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
TV: TWC SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Knicks Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Jose Calderon
SG: Langston Gallaway
SF: Carmelo Anthony
PF: Lou Amundson
C: Jason Smith
Key Reserves: SG: Tim Hardaway Jr., SF: Lance Thomas
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Jordan Clarkson
SG: Wayne Ellington
SF: Ryan Kelly
PF: Jordan Hill
C: Robert Sacre
Lakers Top 5 Phil Jackson Moments