The Los Angeles Lakers are nearing the end of their six-game road trip, but first they take on the New York Knicks on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
L.A. is coming off an improbable win against their longtime rival Boston Celtics without Anthony Davis and LeBron James. For the Lakers, consistency has to be a top priority as the team is now 50 games into the season.
The purple and gold are certainly capable of winning on any given night but yet to put a long stretch of good basketball together. There’s not a better opportunity to turn the tide than beating two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, especially with a Knicks team that has won nine straight games.
Davis and James came into Saturday’s game listed as questionable, but are set to make their respective returns in Madison Square Garden. However, Jarred Vanderbilt is set to miss extended period of time as he injured his right foot in the Boston game. Cam Reddish and Gabe Vincent also remain out with injuries.
As for New York, they are without former Laker Julius Randle, who dislocated his shoulder a week ago against the Miami Heat. It was announced that he’ll miss 2-3 weeks with that injury, a massive blow as the Knicks are on a tear right now. Additionally, recently acquired O.G. Anunoby is dealing with an elbow injury that is keeping him out for a fourth straight game.
However, there has been no letdown as the Knicks have continued winning due in part to now All-Star guard Jalen Brunson, averaging 32.6 points and 6.3 assists on 52.5% from the field and 39% from 3-point range during this stretch. Despite these injuries to their key rotational pieces, Josh Hart, Precious Achiuwa, Isaiah Hartenstein and Donte DiVincenzo all have stepped up.
The defense on Brunson will have to be a committee now that Vanderbilt is out; the only point-of-attack defender now is Max Christie. The second-year guard may see some time guarding Brunson, but it’s a tall task to contain the hot hand.
Head coach Darvin Ham’s schemes defensively need to be versatile to try and get the All-Star out of rhythm. But, L.A. can not afford the role players to get rolling, especially in front of the home court. After a shaky start to the road trip, the Lakers have the chance to end it with two statement wins against the Celtics and possibly the Knicks.
Los Angeles Lakers (25-25) vs. New York Knicks (32-17)
5:30 p.m. PT, Feb. 3, 2024
Madison Square Garden, New York, New York
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Austin Reaves
SF: Rui Hachimura
PF: LeBron James
C: Anthony Davis
Key Reserves: Taurean Prince, Max Christie, Jaxson Hayes, Christian Wood
Projected Knicks Starting Lineup:
PG: Jalen Brunson
SG: Donte DiVincenzo
SF: Josh Hart
PF: Precious Achiuwa
C: Isaiah Hartenstein
Key Reserves: Miles McBride, Jericho Sims