Knicks vs Lakers: ABC 3pm
The Knicks embark on a three game West coast road trip starting on Christmas Day at the Staples Center to take on Mike D’Antoni’s Los Angeles Lakers. This match-up is intriguing in so many ways. The Knicks have a better record than the Lakers on Christmas day for the first time since 1996. Mike Woodson will be coaching against his former boss last year in New York. In many ways, Woodson has taken some of D’Antoni’s offensive philosophies with him and the Knicks are the second most efficient offense in the league thanks to chemistry between Felton and Chandler, but the real key is that Carmelo Anthony sets the table by scoring from every angle. Everything opens up from that, because he is just playing so utterly dominant.
This match-up features the two leading scorers in the league, Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant. They also both currently rank 4th and 5th respectively in player efficiency rating. Carmelo’s 4th place ranking is an all time high for his career. The Knicks are off to their best start since 1972-73 and the Lakers are off to their worst in recent memory. Despite the Lakers tough introduction, they are riding a four game winning streak and in Steve Nash’s debut on Saturday they beat the upstart Warriors on the road in overtime. The offense looked much steadier in Nash’s hands, though he played 38 minutes after his leg injury, fatigue may be a factor. Laker fans believe the win over the Warriors was a turning point in the season and the Knicks cannot awake the sleeping giant, they need to come out blazing and win convincingly.
This is also a game where both teams have something to prove. The Lakers do not want a home loss on Christmas Day and the Knicks recognize these high profile wins help them gain credibility as a legit team in the eyes of NBA observers. The Knicks defense has struggled tremendously over the last 7 or so games, minus the Nets win at MSG. The good news is that the Knicks look able to turn on the switch when they need to, but they can ill afford to get behind to the Lakers, as any team with Steve Nash is dangerous.
The return of Marcus Camby is going to be instrumental for New York to control the boards and backup Tyson Chandler in case he gets in foul trouble. With Gasol and Howard, the Lakers get lots of second chance opportunities and you can’t give that up on the road. The Lakers are the second best rebounding team and the Knicks are the third worst in the NBA. The Lakers and Knicks are 15th and 16th in defensive efficiency at this point of the season so if either team gets hot it will come down to the team who can get stops down the stretch and the Knicks have that advantage as they have the best defensive efficiency in the 4th quarter alongside the L.A. Clippers.
I expect the Lakers to throw multiple defenders at Carmelo, with mostly Metta World Peace and Kobe Bryant handling the majority and I believe the Knicks have a major advantage. Raymond Felton must at least neutralize Steve Nash and go right at him, as Nash struggles keeping his man in front of him and as a team the Lakers are
very porous in helping; which can open the door to plenty of Tyson lobs and swinging the ball around the perimeter where JR Smith and Steve Novak must be on point. The Knicks cannot let frustration get to them either; I believe this is a major hurdle for them especially in big games in preparation for the playoffs.
I’m proud to say I’ll be at the game today in full Knicks regalia cheering on the Broadway Bullies. The Knicks must come into Staples Center with an abrasive, tough, and fearless attitude, controlling the pace and inflicting their will on the Lakers defensively. You have some of the best players to ever play the game together on the court at the same time and this will be beyond entertaining. Both teams are looking to make a statement on a large national stage. Carmelo vs. Kobe, Tyson vs. Howard, Nash vs. Kidd, Woodson Vs., D’Antoni and New York vs. Los Angeles, it just doesn’t get any better than this. Go New York Go New York GO!