Game Preview & Chat: The New York Knickerbockers

Kurt —  January 29, 2008

Records: Lakers 27-15 (6 seed); Knicks 14-29 (a lot of lottery ping-pong balls)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.9 (6th); Knicks 104.3 (23rd)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 106.0 (8th); Knicks 112.4 (28th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Kwame Brown
Knicks: Jamal Crawford, Quentin Richardson, Mardy Collins, Zach Randolph, Eddy Curry

Lakers Notes: First let’s talk offense. Phil Jackson yesterday called out Luke Walton and Lamar Odom for being “timid” in recent games. Good. The thing is (and Phil mentions this) the problem is not every trip down — I watched Odom last game closely and he made a couple aggressive drives to the hole, one when isolated on Dirk and a couple others in transition from the top of the key. But, he is not fighting for position on the block and is not doing well under the pressure to step up without Bynum. He should get over that mental block, then again we’ve been saying that for years now and it’s just not going to happen. Lamar is what he is.

Also, another insightful comment from Bill Bridges:

The other defensive point (related to the “Bynum Effect” as you point out) I would add is that the weak side back court defender is cheating off his man more than he should. This has happened regularly when the offensive player penetrates from strong to weak. The net result is that both Vujacic and Farmar left Barry open on the weak side leading to 3’s. And Vujacic left Terry open for a crucial 3 at the end of the game. The weakside guard’s defensive positioning achieves nothing – neither helping out on the penetrator nor hindering the 3 point shot from his man. They really need to work on this in practice.

Why I think it is related to the Bynum Effect is that Kwame’s teammates have lost all faith that he can anchor the defense.

Suggested Reading: Great column on Kwame today from Kevin Ding in the OC Register — a must read.

Don’t we all have some friends who hate their jobs? Don’t we all know someone who simply can’t deal with confrontation? And if we look around this Sunday, couldn’t we all find a guy who, given the choice between playing in the Super Bowl and hanging out at a rockin’ Super Bowl party, would be a lot happier wearing a lampshade than a helmet?

These kinds of guys – even with all the size, strength, athleticism and opportunity – would not be 6-foot-11, 270-pound Michael Jordans either. They’d be sitting there with beer in hand, moaning about what time they have to get up Monday morning, rooting for the underdog Giants to beat the so-professional Patriots and asking if you’ve got any more guacamole dip.

Hat tip to Jones on the NBA for the link.

The Knicks Coming In: The Knicks have won five of their last eight, which is a sign that either: 1)They are starting to figure it out; 2) Every team wins a few in a row no matter how bad they are (or lose a few in a row no matter how good they are).

To find out what is going on, we asked a couple questions of Mike, the man behind what is one of the OG NBA blogs and still my favorite, Knickerblogger.

Jamal Crawford seems to be playing well of late. What is he doing right? His game isn’t as “pretty” as some other guards on the roster but he seems to be getting things done.

Jamal Crawford has reigned in his game. I’m not sure why, but those fake out my defender so I can take the longest 2 pointer on the court has been largely eliminated from his game. He’s doing a lot more curls & reasonable 18 footers.

Any other keys to why you’ve won 5 of 8?

The reasons the Knicks have won recently is that they’ve:
a. played crappy competition.
b. played their young guys a little more (Robinson, Balkman, Lee, and Collins – in that order).
c. the season is already lost, so they have nothing to lose by giving it their all.
d. have better on the court chemistry with their lineup (mixing defensive guys like Jeffries, Jones, Balkman, Collins, etc.) instead of doling out playing time based on contract/points per game.

The Lakers Should Win The First Quarter: Knickerblogger dug through the stats and found out what is killing the Knicks this year is the first quarter:

1st Quarter: -155
2nd Quarter: -28
3rd Quarter: -70
4th Quarter: -2
In Overtime : -5
Total Pt. Differential -260

Games are said to be won and lost in “crunch time,” but 85% of the Knicks point differential this season can be attributed to their play in the first (-3.8 pts per game) and third (-1.7 pts per game) periods. They have been respectable in the 2nd, and have almost broken even in the 4th, perhaps due partly to the large amount of garbage time they have played this season. The simple conclusion I think is that in order to have a better second half to the season, the Knicks should focus on making a better start to each half of every game. Readers I am sure will have plenty of ideas about how they might do that.

Last time these two met: The Lakers picked up an ugly road win just a few days before Christmas. Most of the news surrounding the game concerned Kobe scoring his 20,000th point. It was the last game of a road trip and the Lakers played like it but pulled out the win thanks to good shooting nights from Kobe (62.7% true shooting percentage, which takes into account trips to the free throw line), Sasha “The Machine” Vujacic (60%), Andrew Bynum (66%) and Trevor Ariza (71.7%). Note that those last two guys will not be playing tonight.

Also, there were some fun thoughts afterward from commenter No Musckles, who was at the game in the Garden:

Saying Nate Robinson is “fast” doesn’t do him justice. He is beyond fast.

Jamal Crawford’s game resembles the game of the 42-year-old guy at the park who gets by on an ugly set shot and funky bank shots. Doesn’t matter how it happens, he puts the rock through the ring.

Keys To The Game: Last game it was the Knicks Bench that kept them in it — they bring guys like David Lee, Balkman and Nate Robinson off the bench who are pure energy guys. If the Knicks are going to threaten the Lakers it will be because their bench wins that battle, the Lakers reserves need to step up.

The Lakers should be able to get points in the paint tonight — Curry and Randolph are horrible post defenders. That is, the Lakers can get them if Kwame and Odom are smart and aggressive, and if Kobe and Fisher can get into the lane. On the other side, both of the Knicks bigs can score so playing good defense on them will be key.

One thing to look for — the Knicks have played a lot of zone defense lately. Kobe, Fisher, Farmar and Sasha should be able to shoot over the top of that, but Odom and Kwame need to get into the soft middle of the zone for the Laker offense to really click against it.

Bottom line, this is a game the Lakers should win and can use to snap out of their funk — if they play hard and not timid.

Where you can watch: Game time is 7:30 p.m. (Pacific) and is being shown on Fox Sports in Southern California, nationally Kwame a. and the rest of you with League Pass are happy.