The Knicks are on a three-game losing streak and have lost ownership of the fifth seed. Against the Lakers, they’ll try to get back on track.

The New York Knicks (39-30) remain in Los Angeles to face the Los Angeles Lakers (33-34) in the final game of their three-game California leg of their road trip. Entering the game, the Knicks are in the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference, virtually tied with the Brooklyn Nets for the fifth seed. The last time these two teams faced off, the Lakers came away with a 129-to-123 win on January 31st.

This feels familiar. After winning nine games in a row, the Knicks are now on a three-game losing streak and now must regroup and adjust to avoid falling off any further in the playoff race. The Hornets’ loss was one thing – a team riding high came home and was shocked by a team with nothing to lose. As Charlotte played freely, New York got a bit tight and, by extension, the game got away from them pretty early. Losses against Sacramento and the Los Angeles Clippers were more of a reminder that the Knicks have work to do to contend against some of the top teams. Both teams are playoff locks with different looks – The Clippers have one of the best coaches in the league with two superstars on the wing, while Sacramento is currently second in the West with 40 (?!) wins, thanks to their electric pace and overall excellent team-building.

Jalen Brunson’s left foot injury is huge. The Knicks have shown the ability to hold the line for a game or two without the former Villanova Wildcat, but with the playoffs looming, Brunson being 100% is a must for any success. Julius Randle has hit a bit of a wall, shooting 5-of-24 against the Clippers, 8-of-22 against Sacramento, and 5-of-17 against Charlotte. Getting Randle back on track is essential for the Knicks to not only hold on but to get back into that fifth slot in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks are still good, but the winning streak is over and more adjustments are needed. Slightly ramping down Randle’s minutes to see if Obi Toppin can offer more, some more Deuce McBride minutes, playing without a point guard when Quickley is on the bench – the Knicks have options and it’s up to Tom Thibodeau to try them out.

Show me my opponent

The Los Angeles Lakers, on a three-game winning streak, are pushing for a play-in bid. The trade deadline was supposed to energize Los Angeles, but then LeBron James went down with an injury, changing their trajectory. For now, the Lakers are merely attempting to get into the dance. Anthony Davis is now their offensive fulcrum, but a returning D’Angelo Russell gives them the shooting boost they need. Jared Vanderbilt does all the little things and dirty work, while the Austin Reeves-Malik Beasley combination gives them help on the wings. After confusion and overall clunkiness with Russell Westbrook on the roster, the Lakers, at the very least, make sense around their star players.

Without James, the Lakers have leaned on the Davis-Russell duo when both have been available. Vanderbilt allows you to play small for stretches while being able to switch everything, while Mo Bamba, another trade deadline acquisition, maintains the size and offensive flexibility at the center position. Despite not having the best wing depth, this team has good size on the perimeter, allowing Los Angeles to at least maintain defensively. This is a weird team with a star at the top. For the short-term, everything has to go right for the Lakers to work. For the long-term, however, dropping James into this group makes them a bit more dangerous if they make the playoffs. For now, you don’t what you’re getting with this team on a nightly basis and that makes them a feisty matchup for this Knicks team.

What to watch

— Who Steps Up: The Knicks will need someone to put the ball in the basket and overall carry the offense. In the last three games, Randle and RJ Barrett just haven’t had it. Immanuel Quickley has been awesome the last three games, but the Knicks need help finding that extra in order to come away with the victory and stop the losing streak.

— Immanuel Quickley on D’Angelo Russell: Quickley has been great offensively, but the Knicks will need him to lead defensively against Russell. Russell hasn’t been an elite offensive player since returning to the Lakers, averaging under 17 points per game. However, stifling Russell cuts off another avenue in Los Angeles’ overall offensive plans, as Russell is really the only one who can score and generate offense for others.

— Turning offense into defense: This is a great game for both Quentin Grimes and Josh Hart to dig in on Los Angeles’ wing group and produce turnovers. Reeves is fine with the ball, while Beasley largely looks to score when the ball is in his hands. Pressing both players and putting pressure on them could result in a bit more turnovers, which would generate more points

Tip-off is set for 9:00 p.m.

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»Read: Immanuel Quickley is a Worthy Sixth Man of The Year