By: Nathaniel Lastrapes
An enormous weight has been lifted off of the shoulders of head coach Byron Scott and the Los Angeles Lakers after they earned their first win of the season against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night. After four straight losses to begin the season for a second consecutive year, many Lakers fans had already shifted their focus on the 2016 NBA Draft.
However, thanks to a win against another winless team, the Lakers and their loyal fans have another game to look forward to versus the New York Knicks. It is widely anticipated that this will be Kobe Bryant’s last dance at Madison Square Garden, with Kobe even implying so himself yesterday.
Kobe has had plenty of miraculous performances at Madison Square Garden, and this seems to be the curtain call. Perhaps he was given a preview of the energy that New York fans can provide on Friday night, when fans at the Barclay’s Center broke out into “Kobe” chants. Kobe’s last dance at The Garden will be the headline, but more importantly, the Lakers are looking to get their second win of the season.
Carmelo Anthony has been the leader of the Knicks since his arrival via trade in 2011. Things have not been smooth for Carmelo in New York, but with Phil Jackson in the front office, there is hope on the horizon. Carmelo has gotten older and has lost a bit of athleticism, but he remains one of the most dangerous scoring threats in the league. If he gets into a good rhythm, that can mean trouble for the Lakers.
Phil Jackson and company took what many thought to be a gamble, drafting Latvian big man, Kristaps Porzingis, with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. Porzingis has not failed to impress in his first two weeks with the Knicks, averaging 12 points and eight rebounds per contest. Porzingis will not do any significant damage in the paint, but he can shoot the ball with the best of them.
Robin Lopez will be another player that the Lakers will want to keep a close eye on. Lopez is not the offensive threat that his brother is, but he can leave an imprint on the game with his activity down low. He is a big body that can draw attention away from Porzingis on the perimeter, and will create space on the offensive end for the Knicks.
Starting at point guard for the Knicks is a player who always has career-nights against the Lakers, Jose Calderon. Calderon is a crafty point guard who seems to tear the Lakers apart by penetrating in the lane and knocking down open threes. D’Angelo Russell will have his work cut out for him, as he will try to limit the savvy veteran point guard.
Arron Afflalo will start at shooting guard for the Knicks and can have a significant impact on any given night. Afflalo is not a guard who will create his own shots for the most part, but rather he is a spot up shooter and a slasher. The Lakers have to pay close attention to where he is on the floor at all times.
Another shooting guard off of the bench is former Lakers two-time champion, Sasha “The Machine” Vujacic. Vujacic was a fan favorite during his time with the Lakers, as he was a pest on the defensive end and had an automatic jumper. The Slovenian guard recently reunited with Phil Jackson and head coach Derek Fisher in New York and is looking to rejuvenate his NBA career.
Keys to Victory:
Hold the Knicks Under 100: For the first time this season, the Lakers held the opposition to under 100 points and, strangely enough, came away with a victory. Prior to the win, the Lakers were allowing 115 points per game from the opposition, which is too many to say the least. The Lakers have plenty of scoring threats on their roster, so if they hold the Knicks to fewer than 100 points, the Lakers should walk away with their second win of the season.
Make Some Threes: If the Lakers are going to lead the league in three-point field goal attempts, they better start making some or change their approach. The Lakers are averaging 30 three-point attempts per game and are only converting 29 percent of them. A better three-point percentage will be a result of better ball movement and fewer one-on-one isolations with a short shot clock.
Play Through Russell: For the first time this season, the Lakers allowed D’Angelo Russell to create some offense for the team at point guard, and he delivered in the scoring category. Once D’Angelo cements himself as a scoring threat, the defense will have to shift their focus to stopping him, thus creating open shots for other Lakers. This will not happen overnight, but if the Lakers can establish an identity with Russell in control of the offense, they will be a tough team to matchup with.
Los Angeles Lakers (1-4) at New York Knicks (2-4)
12:30 PM PST, November 8, 2015
Madison Square Garden, New York, New York
TV: TWC SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN (English)/ 1330 AM ESPN Deportes (Spanish)
Knicks Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Jose Calderon
SG: Arron Afflalo
SF: Carmelo Anthony
PF: Kristaps Porzingis
C: Robin Lopez
Key Reserves: SG: Sasha Vujacic, PF: Derrick Williams, C: Kevin Seraphin
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Jordan Clarkson
SF: Kobe Bryant
PF: Julius Randle
C: Roy Hibbert
Key Reserves: SG: Lou Williams, SF: Nick Young, C: Tarik Black