The New York Knicks a preparing to take on the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday evening, and while their opposition has struggled this season, they contain three of the most dominant players in basketball featuring in the starting five.
With the Knicks coming off a disappointing defeat to the Chicago Bulls, in which Julius Randle was the only starter to earn double-digit points, they will have arguably a taller task against the Lakers, who’re capable of scoring an exorbitant amount despite a lack of defensive efficiency at times.
The Lakers have allowed over 100 points in nearly every single game this season, featuring one of the worst defenses in basketball, and without LeBron James having been suspended against the Detroit Pistons, the Knicks might have an easier chance to emerge victorious.
Three keys for the Knicks against the Lakers on Tuesday night:
1.) The Knicks need MORE from Kemba and Fournier
The Knicks simply need more from Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier, who combined for 10 points against Chicago over 41 total minutes. Fournier is shooting 35.5% from deep and averaging 12.1 points per game, but his assist numbers are down significantly compared to last season.
When Fournier and Walker are struggling offensively, they are virtually useless on the floor, given their vulnerabilities on defense. Unless they can take a step forward and hit their shots efficiently, the Knicks will once again be relying on the second team to pick up the slack, which isn’t a sustainable strategy moving forward.
2.) Elite defense
The Knicks played well in the first three quarters against Chicago on Sunday but allowed 37 points in the fourth, giving the game away when it mattered most. They held them to 21 points in the third quarter, showcasing solid perimeter defense and interior physicality.
However, the Lakers feature Anthony Davis, the team’s leading scorer with 24.6 points on average per game. They also have Russell Westbrook, averaging 19.3 points. Both are capable of dominating in the paint and showcasing elite athleticism, so Tom Thibodeau will need his big man ready to play.
Los Angeles is currently the 12th ranked three-point shooting team, but they don’t take many attempts from deep given their dominance inside. The Knicks need to maintain their perimeter defense and collapse appropriately, using their more powerful players to help clog the paint.
3.) Starters need to SCORE
As stated above, if Fournier and Walker fail to contribute, the Knicks will be in for another long night. Julius Randle is coming off a 34 point performance, providing a bit of hope he can build some momentum. The team also needs more from third-year guard RJ Barrett, who has been horrific from three-point range lately, failing to hit a single shot from deep in two of his last three games. His percentage has plummeted to 30.5, despite averaging 14.9 points.
Sooner or later, the starters will come around. This would be a great game to pick up a much-needed win against a tough Lakers team.