The Knicks lost in a shootout against the Clippers but can redeem themselves by dethroning the King and the Lakers on Tuesday night.
The New York Knicks (10-26), return to the Staples Center looking to leave Los Angeles with a win against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers (29-7). The Knicks are losers of two straight, both losses very winnable games that were lost down the stretch. On Sunday, Marcus Morris led a scoring explosion with a career-high 38 points in a shootout loss to the Kawhi-less Clippers.
Defense and free throws were the difference against the Clippers, and if they do not improve in those two categories this game could get ugly. James and Anthony Davis can go nuclear at the drop of a hat. As a team the Lakers are red hot, winners of their last five entering Tuesday’s Knicks matchup.
Here is what to look out for.
Something to Prove
One thing the Knicks have not done is look like they belong on the floor with the elite of the league. Giannis Antetokounmpo doesn’t know the fourth quarter exists when he plays against New York; the Heat made a spar session out of them; and the defending champion Raptors discarded them. You understand what I’m getting at.
Tonight is an opportunity to change this trend. A competitive game against the best team in the league right now, and two of the five best players in the league right now, would be a major confidence boost.
Morris called Carmelo Anthony a role model, and on Sunday he made ‘Melo proud. He was on cloud nine against the Clippers, stopping on a dime for pull-up threes, hitting off balance threes, or bullying his way to the rim. Morris had the game of his life.
The Knicks will need another big night from Morris if they hope to keep up with LeBron and AD. There is a possibility Morris will not get a chance at an encore; he is listed as questionable with a sore neck.
In addition to Morris being listed as questionable, Elfrid Payton is also questionable due to personal reasons. Dennis Smith Jr. will miss his sixth straight game with a strained left oblique.
Injury Report for 1/7 at LAL: Probable – Morris Sr. (sore neck); Questionable – Payton (personal reasons) and Smith Jr. (strained left oblique).— NY_KnicksPR (@NY_KnicksPR) January 6, 2020
If Payton is unable to go, Frank Ntilikina and Kadeem Allen will share the point guard minutes.
Spotlight: R.J. Barrett
R.J. Barrett has officially supplanted Ntilikina as the most polarizing player among Knicks fans. Prior to a near flawless performance last game against the Clippers, Barrett was on a serious cold spell. He had a tough night in Phoenix last Friday, shooting 35.7% from the field over his last five games. He redeemed himself with a 7-for-11 shooting performance in a tough matchup.
His slew of bad showings led some to hover their hand over the panic button. Tonight Barrett can ease any concerns further with a strong game in another tough matchup. Barrett will likely see a lot of Danny Green, and possibly Avery Bradley if he plays. Those are two plus-defenders who will force Barrett to work.
Barrett has shot poorly from most spots on the floor, but has been shockingly efficient on post ups, scoring 1.23 points per possession.
Jaylen Brown is the most efficient post player in the NBA— Jeremy (@Taco_Haus) January 6, 2020
send tweet pic.twitter.com/cFPbJIHUyk
When matched up on a smaller or equal sized defender Barrett should look to bully his way to the rim. He bullied and wiggled his way to the rim against the Clippers, looked more comfortable in the open court, and finally hit his damn free throws.
Barrett has struggled from the line this season (57.3%), but shot 9-for-11 last game. It’s not a coincidence one of his better games from the line was also one of his higher scoring games of the season.
And please, someone make sure Steve Nash is at the game. Thanks in advance.
UPDATE: 12:09 p.m. ET.
Payton is back with the team and will play tonight in Los Angeles, the team announced.
UPDATE: 8:49 pm. ET.
Marcus Morris and Dennis Smith Jr. are both out on Tuesday.
Marcus Morris Sr (sore neck) and Dennis Smith Jr (strained left oblique) are out for tonight’s game at LA Lakers.— NY_KnicksPR (@NY_KnicksPR) January 8, 2020