The Knicks have an exciting matchup against the Lakers on Tuesday night as Lonzo Ball makes his first appearance at the Garden as an NBA player.
When was the last time the Knicks played the Lakers in a game with some buzz to it and they were favored to win the game?
The Lakers (10-15) head into New York on their third stop of a four game road trip, having won the first two games in Philadelphia and Charlotte. A win against the Knicks is one the Lakers would like to have as their upcoming schedule is absolutely brutal. From New York, they fly to Cleveland to face the Cavs, before jetting back to L.A. to meet the juggernaut Warriors, and then finally going back on the road to meet Houston and the Warriors again.
A loss to the Knicks and the Lakers could be staring a 10-20 start right in the eyes.
For the Knicks, they are in a stretch of their schedule where they should be racking up wins, but recent losses to Orlando at home and to the last place Chicago Bulls have prevented them from doing so. The Knicks are 3-6 since beating the Toronto Raptors with a franchise best 41-10 third quarter run on the night before Thanksgiving.
Let’s take a look at a few things to watch for in tonight’s game:
Three-Point Shooting (or lack thereof)
Good news for Knicks fans used to watching their team getting burned on three-pointers, the Lakers rank dead last in three-point percentage and 24th in three-point attempts. On the other side of the ball, the Lakers allow the league’s lowest opponent three-point percentage. With the Knicks a predominant post-up and mid=range shooting team, it could be like the good ol’ days tonight with neither team looking to score much from the perimeter.
Porzingis in the Post
As mentioned above, the Knicks have sort of developed an old-fashioned offense feeding Enes Kanter and Kristaps Porzingis in the post. Don’t get me wrong, it makes a lot of sense to utilize Porzingis in the post, especially when he draws mismatches with smaller players off switches, players he can just shoot over without even jumping. But it has been a bit concerning how reliant the offense has become on post-up plays, with opposing teams attacking with help off Jarrett Jack to give KP problems.
How many times have we seen this? Porzingis tries to take advantage of mismatch in the post, and liberal help off Jack gets him (turns into corner three) pic.twitter.com/7Aap41iK39
— Knicks Film School (@KnickFilmSchool) December 11, 2017
The Lakers post defense ranks 27th in points allowed per possession, per Synergy Sports. None of Brook Lopez, Julius Randle, nor Larry Nance Jr. have been very effective in stopping post plays this season.
Nance Jr. returned to his starting role a few weeks ago, after missing some time due to a hand injury, but he is battling for minutes with upstart Kyle Kuzma and Julius Randle. Luke Walton has been juggling lineups with the three forwards, playing both Nance Jr. and Randle at center at times, at the expense of Brook Lopez. For the Knicks, they would like to see lineups with Nance Jr. at power forward as it allows Porzingis to help around the rim instead of needing to chase out and defend a perimeter shooter like Kuzma. It will be interesting to see how Walton plays it tonight. I would expect to see a lot of Kuzma in the fourth quarter, which is fine, as he has recently been paired with Julius Randle, who the Knicks could put Porzingis on to allow him to float closer to the paint.
Frank Ntilikina vs. Lonzo Ball
Come on… This is the matchup we all want to see, and one that I’m ready to make a video on after the game. Ball has been hampered recently by calf injuries, but he played 27 minutes against the Hornets on Saturday. Since Ball starts and Ntilikina comes off the bench, look for the two to square off at the end of the first and third quarters and/or during crunch time.
Ball has struggled with his shot so far this season (32.1 percent overall), and mostly in spot-up situations (15-58, 25.9 percent). Like Knick fans with Ntilikina, Laker fans would like to see Ball drive to the hoop more often instead of settling for threes. The matchup tonight will likely be more about which young guard can find the right pass and make the prudent play than a marquee matchup of back-and-forth scoring.
Tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m. EST from Madison Square Garden.