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Preview: Lakers vs. Knicks

Despite being the only team in the NBA that have yet to lose at home and being a game and a half in front of the defending champions for the top spot in the east, the New York Knicks (16-5) will not be the subject of conversation for tonight's first matchup with the Lakers (9-13).

Nothing against the Knicks, but that's how it goes when the team that's been synonymous with titles for the past 12 years and features a roster that has Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash is still figuring out how to win as a team after 22 games of the season.

Defense, turnovers, effort and patience have been the common keywords from the purple and gold in every single losses. But you have to wonder, how many more Ls will it take before they resolve their deficiencies?

The Lakers are currently 3 games below the .500 mark, have dropped their last 3 games and sitting 3 games behind the 8th spot (Dallas) in the west.

That may not look too alarming to most people, especially when you consider that they have yet to get back Nash, Gasol and Steve Blake, at this point of the season. But they will need some of the teams in front of them to drop some games while they string together wins to catchup.

Of course, the question in the back of every Laker fan right now is: when is that going to happen?

It may sound silly or in the realm of "you're out of your mind", but the Lakers have a great opportunity to get that boulder off of their backs tonight.

For one, Kobe loves playing at Madison Square Garden and is currently the record-holder for most points scored in this famed building with 61 points back Feb. 2, 2009. For those who like to blame Bryant's number of shot attempts as a major reason for the losses, this is probably a game you won't mind seeing him go off.

The Knicks own the 10th overall best defense in the league allowing 102.6 points per game (45.5% from the field/37.5% from distance). The Lakers average 101.5 points for the season but shoot just 44.3% from the field and 39.1% from behind the arc away from home.

Kobe averages 32.3 points on 48.2% shooting from the field and 39% in long balls on the road. But more importantly, he'll probably need to score a lot just to make up for what Carmelo Anthony can bring to the table.

Melo has surpassed Kevin Durant behind Kobe as the 2nd highest scorer around right now at 27.7 points per outing but is putting out 28.9 per game at MGS on 44.2 % shooting from the field and 41.7% from 3-point land. The potential big problem for the Lakers there is the small forward position (Metta World Peace, Devin Ebanks and even Kobe) for them gives up 15 points per game on 51.4% shooting on average, according to 82games.com.

(I did say boulder off of their back, not monkey.)

But whatever the Lakers do as a team, they can't forget to also rely on Howard. Yes, Tyson Chandler has been playing tremendously on both sides of the floor averaging 12.4 points and 9.9 boards. He's only getting .76 blocks per game this season but leads the league in shooting percentage at 69.8%. That's mainly due to the excellent lob passes he's been getting from both Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd. We'll see how much of those he can get against Dwight.

Despite his lighter frame to Howard, Chandler is probably the best center around when it comes to using his length on the opposition defensively. Giving Howard fits isn't new to Chandler. Last season, Tyson held Dwight to just 10 points per game in 2 meetings. Then again, it's probably because Howard's back was giving more trouble than anybody.

Some think the pressure is on the Knicks to win the game to keep themselves in front of Miami and because of the old sports mythology that winning tends make a team complacent.

I will have to disagree simply because the Lakers have more to prove than the Knicks because of their expectations this season is greater than the sum of New York's success now or later. That and the fact that the Lakers badly need a victory.

Matchup of the Game

Dwight Howard vs. Tyson Chandler: It's no secret the Lakers are going to need Dwight dominate the paint tonight to keep the Knicks from focusing in on Kobe and the rest of the shooters for the Lakers. Early foul-trouble for either big could prove monumental to the outcome of the game.

Keys to the Game

> Perimeter Defense: Melo starts the game at the 4 position these days, so Mike D'Antoni might have to change his lineup tonight putting MWP in that position while replacing Jordan Hill with Antawn Jamison at the 3. But whoever is defending Anthony better match his aggression defensively.

> Turnovers: So far, these keys aren't surprising anyone. If the Lakers are having trouble getting back on defense, one way to alleviate that problem is not to turn the ball over. The Knicks aren't the fastest team in the league but you don't have to be, it seems, against the Lakers.

> Bench: With all of the defensive and turnover problems the Lakers are having, the bench's production has been ignored a bit. The second unit is still the second-worse scoring bench in all of the NBA averaging just 23.5 points per. They've been getting their fair share of open looks but struggle in converting them. They have to make those tonight if the Lakers want an upset in the Big Apple.

Watch Out For

LAKERS: Dwight Howard: I just have this feeling that D12 is gonna come out angry. He knows what's at stake and remembers how Chandler made him look silly last year.

KNICKS: Carmelo Anthony: The Knicks go as Melo goes. Besides, he's probably waiting for this game to show former coach D'Antoni that scoring is what he's paid to do.

Game Info

Tonight @ New York Knicks
Tip-off at 5:00 p.m. (PST)
Madison Square Garden
TV: TWC SportsNet (Southern California)/TNT (national)
Radio: 710 AM ESPN/1330 KWKW

Injury Notes

LAKERS: Pau Gasol (tendinitis – no timetable for return), Steve Nash (leg – possible late Dec. return), and Steve Blake (abdomen – possible Jan. return)

KNICKS: Marcus Camby (foot – questionnable), Iman Shumpert (ACL and meniscus – out), and Amar'e Stoudemire (knee – out)
 

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Preview: Lakers vs. Knicks


(Getty Images)

The toughest 7-game road trip of the season for the Lakers (37-16) has been going their way so far winning the first 3 games. Now, it’s off to the Big Apple where they’ve defeated the New York Knicks (26-25) the last 3 meetings. Overall, the Lakers have beaten the Knicks seven-straight games.

Madison Square Garden happens to be Kobe Bryant‘s favorite arena to play in and it shows. Bryant has a career average of 30.3 points per game at MSG, including breaking Bernard King’s record of most points scored at MSG of 60 points with his 61-point output back in Feb. 2, 2009. Kobe has been entertaining the crowd in New York so much that a chant of M-V-P is often the ambience in the stands. But with the Knicks returning to being a team that matters again this season, I wonder if he’ll get the same warm response from tonight’s attendance.

Since losing to the 2-time defending champs on Jan. 9th at Staples Center, the Knicks have only won 5 games. Total team effort and pourous defense have been the biggest culprits for their recent failures. Laker fans certainly can attest to that.

After carrying out an impressive revenge game against their hated rivals in Boston last night, the Lakers will try to avoid the same from the Knicks. Even with New York in a slump right now, they survived a 34-point game from Dwayne Wade to beat Miami, 93-88. But the Lakers are aware that teams like the Knicks can be the most dangerous of any team because of the lack of pressure to win the game.

This could be billed as a trap game for the Lakers due to the amount of emotion and energy they spent against the Celtics. Being the second game of a back-to-back, you could understand why there’s some level of concerns for the champs. However, the Lakers are a perfect 8-0 this season on back-to-backs, so expect them to not left fatigue or lack of sleep (if any) to detract them from what they need to do tonight.

The Knicks are 14-11 at home this season but have split their last 8 games at MSG. They have the second highest-scoring team in the league averaging 106.5 points per contest, but they are also the second-worst defensive team allowing the same amount of points as they put out at 106.2 per game. Amare Stoudamire is their leader in points (26.2 PPG), rebounds (8.6 RPG) and blocks (2.2 BPG) while Raymond Felton is tops in assists (9 APG) and steals (1.8 SPG).

The Lakers are now 18-8 on the road and have won their last 4. With Dallas losing to Denver last night, the Lakers have taken the 2nd spot in the west but are still 7 1/2 games back of San Antonio. The purple and gold have the 9th best offense in the league putting up 102.9 points per outing and have the 10th best defense holding their opponents to 96.2 points per game.

GO LAKERS!!!

TP&G Blog’s Matchup of the Game

Pau Gasol vs. Amare Stoudamire: Amare needed 23 shots to get his 23 points versus the Lakers in their last meeting, but he was matched up with Andrew Bynum. It’s most likely that Mike D’Antoni will stick with Stoudamire at the 4 spot while 7’1″, 250-pound Timofey Mozgov starts at center. Pau has been on a tear on offense these past 3 games on the road shooting at 66% and averaging 23.7 PPG. But Stoudamire is averaging 28.3 PPG while shooting at 64% in his last 3 games.

Keys for the Lakers

1. Paint: One of the best things the Lakers did against the Knicks in the previous game was to dominate the paint on both baskets. It was a 50-30 point difference in the paint and held Stoudamire to 30.4% shooting. They will need to do that again tonight.
2. Tempo: A D’Antoni-coached team will always try to outrun their opponents, especially when they don’t have the size advantage. The Lakers will need to get back on defense, limit their turnovers and run the offense consistently to keep this a halfcourt game as much as possible.
3. Defense: The Lakers are facing the second-highest scoring team in the league, so they can’t allow Amare get on a scoring outburst and can’t let their shooters get too many open looks at the hoop.

Game Info

Tip-off is at 5:00 p.m. (PST).  TV: KCAL (Los Angeles)/ESPN (national)  Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN (Los Angeles)

Preview: Lakers vs. Knicks

Los Angeles Lakers vs New York Knicks in New York

61. That was the record-breaking number of points at the Madison Square Garden Kobe Bryant put up against the New York Knicks (17-24) during their 6-game eastern swing last season. Not sure he’ll come close to those numbers, but I have a feeling Kobe will come out scoring tonight after the Lakers’ (32-10) another disappointing meltdown against the Cavs last night.

Bryant was noticeably bothered by how the Lakers (especially Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum) played during the clutch moments of the game. Besides winning, Kobe had hoped that his teammates will carry the team more because he isn’t exactly at a 100% yet. Actually for a very long time until, at least, the pain and stiffness don’t affect whatever he wants to do on the court too much.


The Lakers certainly cannot wait for that to happen before they decide to put forth extra effort in all categories. Kobe was so frustrated about the Cavs completing their regular season sweep of the Lakers that he did what he rarely does but Phil Jackson always does when trying to get a message across to his players — call them out publicly.

But I think Kobe is more disappointed at the fact that his injuries are preventing him from taking over the game in the fourth quarter when his teammates aren’t doing the job. Oh how he would’ve loved wiping that smirk off of Lebron James and for imitating Kobe’s gesture of team pride when he shakes the jersey in the area of the team name embroided on it.

However, the Lakers have to forget about the Cavs (at least until next time or this June?) and worry about what’s ailing them while trying to get a much-needed band-aid win against the Knicks tonight.

Two-time slam dunk champion Nate Robinson is back as a starter and has been averaging 15.9 points in the 9 games of his return to that lineup. He’s proven numerous times before how much of a migraine he can give the Lakers all by himself. His speed, quickness, and all-out athleticism bode too much for Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmar to handle alone. So the Lakers must support each other when it comes to stopping “Krypto-Nate.”

Since December, the Knicks have turned things around particularly on the defensive end. Of the past 12 games, they’ve only allowed one team to reach the 100-point mark. But New York have dropped 6 of their last 8 meetings at home against the Lakers by letting them score 110.6 points each game. All thanks in large to Kobe of course, who just loves beating the Knicks at MSG.

But more importantly, I really hope the rest of the Lakers treat this game as their chance to makeup for last night’s game and continue to provide the energy and effort the rest of the road trip that they usually often see from their leader.

Kobe and Phil can only do so much as a leader and as a coach. It’s always been the lack of attitude for the Lakers this season that always deprive them of winning ball games and improving as a team to get ready for the half of the season that matters the most. I keep saying will we start seeing the Lakers play better for almost each game but have yet to see any sort of a steady commitment from anybody.

Instead of analyzing what the Lakers need to do tonight, I’ll simply mention what the Lakers lack.

Heart and toughness.

Tip-off is at 5:00. TV: KCAL-9, ESPN  Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN

GO LAKERS!!!

Preview: Lakers vs. Knicks

Los Angeles Lakers vs New York Knicks in New York

61. That was the record-breaking number of points at the Madison Square Garden Kobe Bryant put up against the New York Knicks (17-24) during their 6-game eastern swing last season. Not sure he’ll come close to those numbers, but I have a feeling Kobe will come out scoring tonight after the Lakers’ (32-10) another disappointing meltdown against the Cavs last night.

Bryant was noticeably bothered by how the Lakers (especially Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum) played during the clutch moments of the game. Besides winning, Kobe had hoped that his teammates will carry the team more because he isn’t exactly at a 100% yet. Actually for a very long time until, at least, the pain and stiffness don’t affect whatever he wants to do on the court too much.


The Lakers certainly cannot wait for that to happen before they decide to put forth extra effort in all categories. Kobe was so frustrated about the Cavs completing their regular season sweep of the Lakers that he did what he rarely does but Phil Jackson always does when trying to get a message across to his players — call them out publicly.

But I think Kobe is more disappointed at the fact that his injuries are preventing him from taking over the game in the fourth quarter when his teammates aren’t doing the job. Oh how he would’ve loved wiping that smirk off of Lebron James and for imitating Kobe’s gesture of team pride when he shakes the jersey in the area of the team name embroided on it.

However, the Lakers have to forget about the Cavs (at least until next time or this June?) and worry about what’s ailing them while trying to get a much-needed band-aid win against the Knicks tonight.

Two-time slam dunk champion Nate Robinson is back as a starter and has been averaging 15.9 points in the 9 games of his return to that lineup. He’s proven numerous times before how much of a migraine he can give the Lakers all by himself. His speed, quickness, and all-out athleticism bode too much for Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmar to handle alone. So the Lakers must support each other when it comes to stopping “Krypto-Nate.”

Since December, the Knicks have turned things around particularly on the defensive end. Of the past 12 games, they’ve only allowed one team to reach the 100-point mark. But New York have dropped 6 of their last 8 meetings at home against the Lakers by letting them score 110.6 points each game. All thanks in large to Kobe of course, who just loves beating the Knicks at MSG.

But more importantly, I really hope the rest of the Lakers treat this game as their chance to makeup for last night’s game and continue to provide the energy and effort the rest of the road trip that they usually often see from their leader.

Kobe and Phil can only do so much as a leader and as a coach. It’s always been the lack of attitude for the Lakers this season that always deprive them of winning ball games and improving as a team to get ready for the half of the season that matters the most. I keep saying will we start seeing the Lakers play better for almost each game but have yet to see any sort of a steady commitment from anybody.

Instead of analyzing what the Lakers need to do tonight, I’ll simply mention what the Lakers lack.

Heart and toughness.

Tip-off is at 5:00. TV: KCAL-9, ESPN  Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN

GO LAKERS!!!

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