The Lakers got back on the winning track on Sunday when they ended their four game losing streak by defeating the Orlando Magic 103-94 in a team effort. It was the first game in a while where the Lakers played consistent basketball on both sides of the ball, as guys had a sense of urgency and intensity for all 48 minutes.
Tonight the Lakers are looking to start a winning streak, as they face off against the New York Knicks. The Knicks have been playing some very good basketball as of late, having won eight of their last ten games in their attempt to secure one of the final playoff spots in the eastern conference. Getting a win won’t be easy, but if the Lakers can commit to the defensive end they have a great chance at being successful.
The obvious name that comes up in the Knicks frontcourt is their superstar and leader, Carmelo Anthony. Anthony has been on a mission in this late playoff push, averaging 28 points, seven rebounds, and four assists over his last ten games. He’s playing MVP caliber basketball, and it’s going to take a lot for this Laker team to stop him.
Joining Anthony in the frontcourt are Tyson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire. After an injury in the early part of the season, Chandler is now anchoring the Knicks defense and providing much needed veteran leadership for this ball club. As for Amare, he’s starting to resemble his old self, averaging 17 points and seven rebounds in just under 28 minutes over his last ten games. If he continues to play at this level it’s going to be tough for the Lakers bigs to defend this frontcourt.
In the backcourt the Knicks start veteran point guard Raymond Felton with the young, up-and-coming shooting guard Iman Shumpert. Felton has had a disappointing season with his off the court issues, but has bounced back recently to help his team push toward the playoffs.
Shumpert continues to improve as a player, but seems to have taken a step back after having knee surgery in this past off-season. While he’s a reliable option defensively, he’s yet to show growth on the offensive end, which explains why he splits a lot of his minutes with rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. and J.R. Smith. Hardaway Jr. and Smith are players that the Lakers are going to have to key in on, because if either can get hot from behind the arc it makes this Knick team very tough to defend.
Keys to Lakers Victory:
Contain Melo: Nobody on the Lakers can defend Melo one-on-one. Because of that, they should force someone else on the Knicks roster to beat them. Send him different looks on the defensive end, use double teams, whatever it takes. The Lakers can’t afford for him to continue playing how he has been as of late. If they can’t contain him, it’ll be a long night.
Defensive Effort: We saw on Sunday what can happen if the Lakers simply commit to playing with some type of effort or intensity of the defensive end. Tonight they must continue playing with that same fire. The Knicks are coming in as one of the leagues hottest teams. They will not be taking the Lakers lightly, as they are fighting for their playoff lives. Therefore it’s key that the Lakers prioritize getting stops. They’ll need to prevent penetration, cover the three-point line, and rebound on the defensive end.
Win The Three-Point Line: The three-point line is going to be pretty important in a game like this. Both the Lakers and Knicks like to push the pace and convert from behind the arc as many times as possible. As has been the narrative for the Lakers all season, if they have some moderate success shooting the ball, they tend to give themselves a chance at winning. Tonight will have to be one of those nights that they make a lot of threes, as we should expect this game to be a high scoring affair.
Heading into tonight’s game, the Lakers are 7.5-point underdogs according to Sportsbook.
New York Knicks (29-41) at Los Angeles Lakers (23-46)
7:30 PM PST, March 25, 2014
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
Radio: ESPN LA 710
Knicks Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Raymond Felton
SG: Iman Shumpert
SF: Carmelo Anthony
PF: Amare Stoudemire
C: Tyson Chandler
Key Reserves: SG: J.R. Smith, SG: Tim Hardaway Jr., PF: Jeremy Tyler
Lakers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Kendall Marshall
SG: Jodie Meeks
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Jordan Hill
C: Pau Gasol or Chris Kaman
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