Game 45 Preview: Lakers vs. Knicks


Jan 24, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; Los Angeles Lakers small forward Nick Young (0) looks down during the second half against the Orlando Magic at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks have won 16 games. The last time they were this miserable their coach was an offensive guru who did not coach defense. The Lakers have won 16 games. Their current coach is the same offensive guru who does not coach defense. So in a way there is something about this six degrees of separation that is fatalistic. But the Silver Linings Playbook for the Knicks is that in this lowest of all low seasons the team in Manhattan can immerse themselves in the exploits, brilliance and offensive ingenuity of Carmelo Anthony. It does something when a dynamic player is extraordinary just by himself. The glow of it all lasts for about a week, shrouds the team in goodness and then the memory fades- you look at the box score at the players you are depending on, the losing starts again and it brings everyone back to reality.

The Lakers do not have the diversion of a great scorer, there is nothing for them to bask in other than convincing themselves that losing by five is better than losing by 25. An extraordinary game for their best player, Nick Young, is 30 points and 48% shooting, not 62 points and 65% shooting. Such are the Lakers woes, that and defense, that and trying to figure out a scheme to stop Carmelo when they could not execute a defense to stop Tobias Harris.

Forget Carmelo. There is no one who is going to be able to stop him. He is too gifted a scorer, too physical and strong, too committed to his offense and the Lakers have no one committed to defense. Ryan Kelly on Carmelo is going to be a disaster. Look what Tobias Harris did to him. But to the Lakers very slim advantage, the other Knicks players are so far below Carmelo in terms of ability, execution, heart and grit that it is not entirely hopeless. Just somewhat. The point is Raymond Felton is mediocre. J.R. Smith is having a miserable season. The rest of the Knicks are just as wretched. But Iman Shumpert needs to send Nick Young and Jodie Meeks tapes of his defense. Tyson Chandler rebounds, protects the paint and is a presence inside.

As for the Lakers it is the familiar whine. Can they defend anyone? Is this a D-League defense? At this point the question is: do they want to stop anyone? Effort and intensity is half the equation. As for the Lakers offense Kendall Marshall will probably end up with double digit assists again, not that it has led to wins but it is a nice statistic to look at when the game is over. Pau has been great on this trip- they will probably use a combination of Carmelo and Chandler to stop him. Carmelo with his physicality which Gasol loathes and Chandler with his size and finesse and overall toughness will try to impede Pau. Who knows where Pau’s head is. After the Orlando loss he was morose. A detached Pau means he no longer cares. Nick will have to be more efficient and take better shots; of course coaches have been saying that the past seven years. Stop with the 22 foot fade away already and get closer to the basket. Jodie has been great on the trip as well but he will have a challenge with Shumpert who is a good three inches taller, more athletic, tougher and skilled as a defender. Forget Wes Johnson. His game has forgotten him. Same with Chris Kaman. D’Antoni won’t play him unless absolutely forced. Don’t expect much from Ryan Kelly who will get into foul trouble early against Carmelo. The bench has been particularly pathetic. There is not much scoring with Jordan Hill, Sacre, Manny Harris. But the Knicks bench is pathetic too so it should be a draw.

The coaches are equally awful but D’antoni gets the edge because of who he has to work with and his system that does not fit the players and his defense that is ranked 29th to no one’s surprise. In Carmelo the Knicks have someone going to the All Star game. The Lakers have players who may not be in the NBA next year. What a crazy year for both teams or a depressing year, depending on how you view such things. In any case, the Knicks, on the strength of Carmelo should get this win and send the Lakers back home 13 games under 500. More tears for Pau.