Studs and Duds: Knicks’ winning streak snapped against Los Angeles Lakers

New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) drives to the basket against Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) during the fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks hosted the Los Angeles Lakers at Madison Square Garden with their nine-game winning streak on the line. Missing rotation players finally met their match as the Lakers double-teamed Jalen Brunson 30 times to minimize his impact on the offensive end. Great rest leading up to this game from the Lakers stars kept them with fresh legs as they successfully defeated the New York Knicks 113-105

Studs: Brunson continues his dominance 

In the extended absence of Julius Randle, the level of play from Jalen Brunson has continued to be the anchor for New York’s offense. Averaging 33.8 points in his last five games, Brunson has been on a tear. In the most recent contest against the Lakers, while being doubled like a superstar, he still dropped 36 points and ten assists on 48% from the field. Brunson has been on a tremendous run and is putting the league on notice game after game. The Lakers took an obvious route to negate Brunson’s touches, and the limited offense must be adjusted in the next week.

Studs: DiVincenzo is a sniper 

Who knew the “Big Ragu” could be such a consistent number two? Without Randle and Anunoby, offensive production has been due to the “next man up” approach from New York. Any given night, there is a role man who exceeds expectations with incredible performances, and that was Donte DiVincenzo on Saturday night.

In the last four games, Divencenzo averages 26.8 points per game. With 24 made threes in his prior four contests alone, Divencenzo sits comfortably in the top ten for threes made this season. DiVincenzo signed a four-year, $46.87 contract with the New York Knicks before this season, making him arguably the best contract in the entire NBA. 

Duds: Inefficiency 

Outside of Divencenzo, Saturday night was a tough night where shots were not falling for the New York Knicks’ role players. Josh Hart was the true ‘X-factor’ in this one and couldn’t deliver. A double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds, but shooting 5/16 made it even easier for the Lakers to zone in on DiVincenzo and Brunson.

It was great on Hart to stay aggressive in his pursuit, but this was just a night shots weren’t falling. The Knicks shot 28% from three-point range while shooting 20 more field goals in the contest. The shorthanded Knicks won the rebound battle but couldn’t capitalize, ultimately scoring only 19 to the Lakers 33 in the fourth quarter. 

Duds: Another scoring guard

The trade deadline is now just days away, and talks have not progressed with many of the Knicks’ current rotation members. However, the possibility of making an offseason move seems like the most popular choice.

If a move is to be made before the deadline, the need to fill a hole left by Immanuel Quickley is most prevalent. The Lakers found themselves exposing a weakness in the Knicks until Anunoby and Randle returned. If Hart’s shots are not falling, there will be more of an ‘X’ on the point-of-attack defense that meets Brunson.

Miles McBride plays well alongside Brunson, but he’s still very young. An established scorer in the tier of Jordan Clarkson or Malcolm Brogdon would be a great addition to the Knicks rotation. 

Takeaways from the Knicks’ loss to the Lakers

The Knicks battled mightily through this winning streak with various injuries in the rotation. The camaraderie and mental approach to each game bodes well for New York’s future.

Reintegrating prominent players into the rotation brings fresh legs as the Knicks push for the top-three seed in the playoffs. Looking ahead, the Knicks host three more games on this road trip, with two being against teams above .500. Closing these out strong and adding OG back to the fold will be a priority for New York. 

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