The Knicks will close out their slate of regular-season away games by returning to the Staples Center and facing the Lakers. 

The New York Knicks’ (38-30) west-coast road trip is about to come to an end. The first five games featured some of the highest highs of the season and the lowest of the lows. New York is 3-2 heading into the sixth game of the trip and their last away game of the regular season, facing off against the Los Angeles Lakers (38-30) at 10:00 at the Staples Center.

Last time the Knicks played the reigning champions, they hardly looked like the title-winning squad. LeBron James and Anthony Davis were both out with injuries and New York cruised to an easy victory. This time around, it doesn’t look like they’re going to get totally off the hook.

Davis has returned but is still looking to get back to his full power. In his last 10 games, the eight-time All-Star has averaged 20.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.0 assists, shooting 42.4% from the field, 23.5% from three, and 76.2% from the line while playing 29.7 minutes per game. While his scoring hasn’t been all that intimidating in this stretch, Davis is still a terror, namely on the defensive end. In Los Angeles’ last game, he lit up the Phoenix Suns for 42 points and a win.

James, who has missed L.A.’s last four games and 24 of their last 26, is eyeing to come back tonight, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, though the Lakers’ injury report listed him as out. With the Lakers in position to fall into the play-in tournament—of which James is not a fan—he has extra incentive to put on a strong performance tonight. But he might not even see the floor at all.

The Lakers are already without starting point guard Dennis Schröder and have several key players listed as probable. Though, undermanned they are not to be taken too lightly as long as Davis plays.

Picking up a win would be big for both teams’ standings, though New York is well above play-in territory. In fact, with a win tonight and a Boston Celtics loss (they play the Miami Heat at 7:30 p.m. ET), the Knicks would clinch a top-six seed.

New York is also in prime position to get home-court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs. The Atlanta Hawks and Heat remain just one game behind the ‘Bockers in the standings. Falling to the sixth seed could draw a matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks or Brooklyn Nets, both of whom would be a very tough challenge in a seven-game series.

Rose continues to swoop and hoop

Derrick Rose continues to make the front office look brilliant (and for those who are into cold-take shaming, making me look like an idiot) for nabbing him from the Detroit Pistons in January. He has been exactly the jolt of offense that New York needed at the time and still needs now.

His last five games have shown that he’s still capable of being a leading contributor. In 29.7 minutes per contest, Rose has averaged 21.0 points and 4.6 assists on blistering hot shooting percentages—64.2% from the field and 63.2% from beyond the arc. He was hugely important in New York’s last victory with Julius Randle and R.J. Barrett both shooting under 40% from the field.

Rose’s impressive play makes the Sixth Man of the Year race more interesting. Jordan Clarkson has been getting buckets off the bench all season long for the Utah Jazz, making him the presumptive front-runner. Rose ending the season so strongly might make voters second guess that. Comparing their stats on NBA.com shows that Rose leads Clarkson in several areas.

The cases for both Clarkson and Rose are bolstered by each of their teams blowing past their expectations. Clarkson will likely take home the award for providing his explosive scoring all season long but Rose’s overall offensive impact should definitely get him on the ballot, if not a few first-place votes.

Injury report

Immanuel Quickley and Alec Burks were both out for New York’s last two games. On Monday, the team announced that Burks is questionable to play and Quickley is doubtful.

UPDATE: 3:55 p.m. ET.

LeBron James is likely missing tonight versus the Knicks and targeting a return tomorrow, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

 

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