Friday was a clear-cut example of how an NBA team can overcome circumstances when struggling on the court. Although the Los Angeles Lakers had one of their worst shooting performances of the season, including an NBA record for lowest free-throw percentage in a game, they held on for the 99-86 victory over Indiana Pacers.
The horrendous performance from the free throw line (2-for-14) likely would have been the downfall for most teams. However, the way the Lakers defended led to allowing their second-lowest points of the season. Luke Walton’s team now shifts their attention to the Sunday matinee matchup against the New York Knicks, in what will likely be an exciting contest.
Winning five of their last seven games, the Lakers have drastically changed the outlook following a recent losing streak. In fact, L.A. is coming off their first win of the season without Lonzo Ball.
He will miss Sunday’s game and so too will Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Achilles), while Brandon Ingram (ankle) is a game-time decision. Walton said Sunday morning that Ingram was receiving treatment.
The Knicks start and finish with one of the more notarized All-Star starting snubs in Kristaps Porzingis. He has progressed into the franchise player the Knicks had hoped for following the departure of Carmelo Anthony.
In 40 games this season, Porzingis is averaging 23.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks. New York is coming off of a tight affair against the Utah Jazz, escaping with a 117-115 road win for their 21st victory of the season.
They were led by forward Tim Hardaway Jr., who had a team-high 31 points. Head coach Jeff Hornacek has plenty of scoring options in his starting lineup, with Courtney Lee, Jarrett Jack, and Enes Kanter also providing consistency in different aspects.
Their strong presence has allowed Horancek to shuffle with his rotations, with veteran Michael Beasley and sharp-shooter Doug McDermott coming off the bench. New York currently finds themselves in the 10th spot in the east, just 2.5 games behind the Philadelphia 76ers for playoff contention.
One of the disappointments for the Knicks this season has been the production of guard Frank Ntilikina. The No. 8 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft hasn’t fared as well as may believed he would.
The Lakers will have their hands full trying to limit a team that thrives on offense, but as a top-10 defensive team, they surely are up for the challenge. The first meeting this season between these two teams was a dandy, with the Knicks hanging on for a 113-109 overtime victory.
Caldwell-Pope led the Lakers with 24 points, while rookie Kyle Kuzma chipped in 19 points off the bench in the loss.
Three Keys To Victory
Limit Second Chance Opportunities:
Kanter and the New York big men love to crash the boards for their scoring guards, meaning the Lakers must do a consistent job of limiting the Knicks to one possession. If Los Angeles can collectively crash the boards, they will enhance their ability to get out in transition as one of the more uptempo teams in the NBA.
Make Knicks Rotate On Defense:
The Knicks are 25th in the NBA in steals per game, constantly having to rely on outscoring their opponents to succeed. As the old saying goes, the ball moves faster than a person. If the Lakers can establish ball movement, they can capitalize on open shots especially with their starting point guard not suiting up.
Battle of the Second Units:
The Lakers second unit was the clear difference maker against the Pacers, setting the tone defensively. Walton has preached how the defense will be the basis for their ongoing success, with players like Alex Caruso, Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson stepping up.
A strong output for the second unit will ease the load for the starting lineup, especially if all three starters once again do not suit up.
Los Angeles Lakers (16-29) Vs. New York Knicks (21-25):
12:30 P.M. PST, January 21, 2018
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM(ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Tyler Ennis
SG: Josh Hart
SF: Corey Brewer
PF: Julius Randle
C: Brook Lopez
Key Reserves: Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso
Knicks Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Jarrett Jack
SG: Courtney Lee
SF: Tim Hardaway Jr.
PF: Kristaps Porzingis
C: Enes Kanter
Key Reserves: Michael Beasley, Doug McDermott, Kyle O’Quinn