The New York Knicks look to take advantage of LeBron James’ absence and halt eight-game skid against the Lakers on Friday night.
The Knicks are currently mired in their worst stretch of the season, losers of eight straight and 13 of 14 with their last win coming way back on December 14th.
New York has plummeted in the standings and now find themselves with the third-worst record in the NBA at 9-29. Currently in the middle of a daunting West Coast trip, it doesn’t get any easier for the Knicks, who will look to grab a rare win in Los Angeles this evening with King James temporarily on the shelf with a groin injury. The Lakers, even without their superstar, still possess a nice mix of veteran (JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson) and young and emerging talent (Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Lonzo Ball) who should not be taken lightly by anyone, especially the lowly Knicks.
Life Without LeBron
LeBron James has proven to be one of the most durable players ever, seldom missing games due to injury. So the fact that he has been recently sidelined by a groin injury at 34 years of age and a ton of mileage on his body is extremely surprising. Since James has been on the shelf, the Lakers have posted unimpressive and very predictable 1-3 record. Despite this, they have looked competent without their superstar, only losing close games to the Kings, Clippers, and Thunder—all playoff-caliber teams.
Kyle Kuzma has taken a quantum leap this year and has established himself as a solid number two offensive option. Kuzma poses a lot of problems for opposing teams defensively due to the fact that he can shoot from the perimeter, has great athleticism and has elite length that makes him unguardable at times. The 23-year-old has improved his scoring output by two points from his rookie season and has been money since LBJ went down putting up 25 points per game, excluding the Thunder contest where he left early due to injury. Kuzma is questionable this evening with that lower back injury, but if he is good to go, he need to be the Knicks number one focus defensively.
Brandon Ingram, despite having a pedestrian year and not yet living up to expectations of being a number-two overall pick, has picked up his game recently, averaging just under 20 points per in his last four contests. Ingram, like Kuzma, is very long and can shoot a bit from the perimeter and could be a nightmare for a defensively deficient Knicks team.
If the Knicks want any shot in winning this game this evening, defending Kuzma and Ingram well is where they need to start. New York needs to force guys who aren’t as lethal from the outside like Ball, Stephenson, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to beat them.
New York Knox
A glimmer of positive news that we can draw from the recent atrocious play from the Knicks is the emergence of Kevin Knox. Knox took home Rookie of the Month for December and has looked increasingly more comfortable as the season has progressed. The confidence Knox has displayed in not only his perimeter shooting, but his mid-range/close-range game off of the dribble has been impressive as well.
Look for Knox to try and utilize his floater against a Lakers team that ranks 25th in the league allowing 51.6 points per game in the paint, per NBA Stats).
Kevin Knox's nifty floater has been a staple of his offensive arsenal through the first half of his rookie season.
Watch every floater (full video in link):https://t.co/1wr6gei6hp
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) January 3, 2019
Mitch Rob Back?
Mitchell Robinson has been upgraded to questionable for tonight’s game. Marc Berman of the NY Post says the seven-foot rookie is a game-time decision.
There is a little added motivation for Mitch to play tonight, being that the Lakers passed on him at pick no. 25 for Moritz Wagner last year after strongly considering the big man. Robinson has been absent for eight straight games with an ankle injury and the Knicks could use him back with Enes Kanter’s play declining.
Robinson has been one of the more impressive rookies in terms of interior defense this season, averaging 1.8 blocks per game. The 20-year-old has a lot of work to do in order to become a viable NBA player, especially offensively, but there are some positives to be drawn out of what we’ve seen for Robinson thus far. With Knox on a roll, it would be nice to see both recent Knick draft picks start to come into their own at the same time.