Here’s everything you need to know about Tuesday’s matchup.
Your 23-28 Los Angeles Lakers are continuing their tour of New York on Tuesday with a trip to the famous Madison Square Garden to take on the 27-24 Knicks. All-Star captain LeBron James is expected to play, as is superstar big man Anthony Davis. Starting shooting guard Patrick Beverley, however, won’t play, as he’s nursing a sore left knee.
The Lakers are looking to get back in the win column, after losing their last two games. There’s no better time to do that against a Knicks team that has lost five of its last seven. Here are our All Lakers predictions for tonight’s game:
1. What do you think the starting five will look like? Who’s going to replace Beverley? And is AD finally going to enter back into the starting lineup?
Noah: My starting five prediction for Tuesday’s matchup is Dennis Schröder, Lonnie Walker IV, Rui Hachimura, LeBron James and Anthony Davis. I think Thomas Bryant moves to an off-the-bench role with AD back in the lineup, and Hachimura remains, providing some length, versatility and shooting.
Alex: It’s high time that AD returns to the starting five. Bryant has looked rough in the two games he started with Davis playing off the bench (although he had a great game yesterday when Davis sat), I don’t think it’s worth doing this anymore. Ham can still opt to stagger his minutes, but it’s time for him to start. I would absolutely love to see the 6’4″ Walker return to the first five and be shifted to his more natural shooting guard role, and it’d be fun to at least audition Hachimura at the three spot. If it’s not a fit, maybe Troy Brown Jr. can return and Hachimura can be used in lineups with Russell Westbrook off the bench. I’m pretty over the Pat Bev-at-shooting-guard experiment, and would love for him to be a reserve whenever he does return.
2. Jalen Brunson is having an All-Star caliber first season in New York. With Beverley out, how can the Lakers slow him down?
Alex: Westbrook has been surprisingly solid on defense this season, at least when he’s dialed-in on that front. Given that a lot of tonight’s scoring and playmaking can now fall to James and Davis, I’m hoping he steps up on that front and serves as the main defender on Brunson at the point of attack.
Noah: The Knicks received a lot of flak when they brought in Brunson on a four-year, $104 million deal this offseason. But so far, it’s worked just fun. Brunson is averaging 22.5 points and 6.2 assists per game, shooting nearly 47 percent from the field and 40 percent from deep. The Lakers will likely have Schröder, Walker and Russell Westbrook on Brunson, which spells trouble for LA. They’ll need to always have a help defender nearby for when he blows by his man
3. With Mitchell Robinson sidelined due to a right thumb injury, the Knicks have started second-year center Jericho Sims at the five. That should bode well for AD, right? Predict his stat line at MSG:
Noah: No disrespect to Sims, but AD should feast on the young center on Tuesday night. I see AD having his best all-around game since his return, getting 28 points, 13 boards and three blocks. I also see him getting to the free-throw line a bunch.
Alex: I love this AD prognosis. Jericho Sims is a big body and surprisingly mobile for his 6’10”, 245-pound frame, but he’s going to be fouling Davis like crazy. Just to be different, I’ll predict a more modest 20 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks.
4. Julius Randle always seems to play well against his former team, averaging 24.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 4.2 assists in 10 career games against the Lakers. How can LA keep him quiet tonight?
Alex: Randle was relied on too heavily as a playmaker last season, which is why the Jalen Brunson upgrade has been so critical to the Knicks’ overall success — it has allowed the ex-Laker to thrive in a more off-ball capacity. To that end, I say we force him to make decisions with the ball more, and try to keep the rock away from Brunson.
Noah: If my starting lineup prediction is correct, it’ll likely be LeBron or Hachimura on Randle. If Bryant remains in the lineup, then AD will match up with Randle — and I like that much better for LA. So maybe I should go back on my lineup prediction! But no, between Hachimura, LeBron and AD, the Lakers have more than enough length and size to match up with Randle, and make life difficult for him. Sims isn’t a three-point threat, so AD (or whoever the big is) will be able to help clog the paint on any drives.
5. Who you got tonight?
Noah: I’m taking the Lakers to get the (slightly) upset victory. AD and LeBron are going to put on a show at MSG, and the Lakers will get back in the win column to close out January with a winning record.
Alex: I’m with you on this. Darvin Ham was thinking tactically when he rested Davis and James for the Nets loss last night — this was always going to be the more gettable game among these two New York back-to-back bouts. Lakers by five.