The New York Knicks are gearing up to take on the LA Lakers in their West Coast finale after taking down the Clippers on Sunday evening. Despite being shorthanded, missing Immanuel Quickley and Alec Burks, the Knicks walked away with a victory against one of the best teams in the NBA. Composed of star players like Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers did not anticipate an aggressive Knicks defense that left it all on the floor.
However, the Lakers are expected to gain LeBron James back on Tuesday evening after dealing with a high ankle sprain the past few weeks.
Anytime LeBron James is on the floor, you have to be worried. This season, despite having played in just 43 games, he’s averaging 25 points, 7.8 assists, and 7.9 rebounds.
The Knicks know the 36-year-old perennial All-NBA star is borderline unstoppable when healthy. I imagine he will be on a minute limit, so New York must take advantage when he’s off the floor. The Lakers have struggled without him recently, but handling James and Anthony Davis will be no easy feat.
As we know, the Knicks have the number one ranked defense in the NBA, allowing 105 points per game. The Lakers also have a suffocating defense, ranked second, allowing 106.6 points. It will be a battle of the defenses, but the Knicks have the capability to blow a game open with solid three-point shooting.
In their last contest against the Clippers, they held the best three-point shooting team in the NBA to just 34.3% from downtown. The Knicks connected on 40.6% and have been shooting well from three-point since after the All-Star break.
A victory over the Lakers would give the Knicks a ton of confidence as they finish off the season with a homestretch against the Spurs, Hornets, and Celtics.
Against the Clippers, head coach Tom Thibodeau indicated that Julius Randle played a significant part in the victory, commanding double teams which hurt his point production. He only posted 14 points, but his ability to draw attention from the opposing defense helped open up shots for his teammates. He hit a few clutch shots down the stretch, which closed out the game for the Knicks and solidified the win. Teams are quickly figuring out that stopping Randle is their best bet at beating New York, but they proved that they can win without him posting 20+ points per game.
Hopefully, both Quickley and Burks will be available against the Lakers, giving the Knicks a bit more firepower on offense.