Preview and Chat: The New York Knickerbockers

Darius Soriano —  January 9, 2011

Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Records: Lakers 26-11 (3rd in West), Knicks 21-14 (6th in East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.5 (2nd in NBA), Knicks 110.8 (4th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.0 (11th in NBA), Knicks 108.9 (22nd in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Knicks: Raymond Felton, Landry Fields, Wilson Chandler, Amar’e Stoudemire, Ronny Turiaf
Injuries: Lakers: Matt Barnes (out), Theo Ratliff (out); Knicks: Danilo Gallinari (out), Kelenna Azubuike (out), Eddy Curry (out)

What Ails You Part II:  Before the Hornets game we discussed how the Lakers had put together a couple consecutive wins, but where starting to show some wear and tear for their efforts with Odom nursing a sore shoulder and reports that Kobe’s right knee was “almost bone on bone”.  However, in that game both Odom and Kobe played up to their typical levels with neither showing anything that would suggest they were actually hurt.

Tonight’s game offers a different scenario in that Matt Barnes is actually out with a knee injury suffered against the Hornets and Blake, while probable to play tonight, also left that game early rolling his ankle (and will likely be slowed for a couple of days as he recovers).  The Lakers have the depth and options to cover for Barnes being out, but the team will need to adjust to injuries with changes in rotations and new players having to step up to fill in.  Obviously no one is going to shed a tear for the Lakers as every team must deal with injuries.  But with the Lakers banged up, the entire team must circle the wagons to ensure that their level of play doesn’t drop off right as they’re staring to build some momentum.

The Knicks Coming in: The promise of what was supposed to be the Mike D’Antoni era is finally starting to show itself with the Knicks.  After years of mismatched parts and only having partial ingredients, the Knicks now have a nearly stocked cupboard of players for D’Antoni to deploy . Pulling in Amar’e and Felton in free agency, the continued development of Gallinari (though out tonight) and Wilson Chandler, and finding a gem in the 2nd round of the draft in Landry Fields has sparked an hoops renaissance in NY.

It’s to the point that the Knicks now look like a sure playoff team and one that could put a scare into one of the top 2 teams in the East if they continue on their current trajectory.  They’ve played the Celtics close and kept up with the Heat for a half and have recently dispatched the Spurs.  They’ve won 3 in a row and 5 of 7, playing good basketball almost every night.  Their bread and butter is still their offense as they’ve consistently been in the top 5 most of the year (currently 4th) and they’ve found ways to outscore opponents down the stretch countless times to pull out victories.

Obviously there’s still work to do as they still sport a defense in the bottom third of the league and they’ve allowed players to have career nights against them all season (Kevin Love’s 31/31 game and Blake Griffin’s 44/15 game to name just two).  But the progress they’ve shown this season is a big step forward.  Basketball matters again in New York and if you watch this team on TV you see Madison Square Garden rocking again.  The league is more fun when this team is good and as they continue to play with confidence, I don’t think their status as a tough out is going to change anytime soon.

Knicks Blogs:  Knickerblogger is one of the OG hoops sites and I visit it daily for it’s content and for it’s stats page.  Really, you should too.  Mike Kurylo and crew just continue to do excellent work covering this team.

Keys to game: I’ve listed Turiaf as a starter, but that may not be the case.  Similar to the Suns (a phrase you’re sure to hear a lot today), the Knicks often run with a small lineup and could easily deploy a group that tries to stretch the floor and pull one of the Lakers’ bigs away from the basket to open up lanes to the hoop.   So, don’t expect the Knicks to go in any given direction with their front court just to try and match up with the Lakers big men.  Remember, D’Antoni isn’t a guy that tries to match up with you but rather someone that tries to dictate the match ups and thus the flow of the game.

That said, regardless of who the Knicks throw out there the Lakers need to attack inside.  Neither Turiaf or Amar’e are true impediments to the Lakers’ inside play and the goal should be to punish them inside at every opportunity.  (Turiaf will try hard – and we love him for that – but he’s undersized for a Center.  Amar’e will also try, but he’s not a defensive player; he just doens’t have the mindset of a stopper and would rather just get you back on the other end.)  So, throw the ball inside to Pau and Drew and let them go to work.  Both players had excellent games against a similar front-line on Friday so both should again be able to impose their wills and control the offensive paint.

Kobe should also be able to attack the interior both with post-ups and off the bounce.  The Knicks allow the third most shots at the rim in the league and that should be music to the ears of the attacking Kobe we’ve seen of late.  He’ll likely be facing standout rookie Landry Fields, a guy whose length and quickness could present an issue but in the end I still expect Kobe to use the rook’s inexperience and slight-ish frame against him by showing off his full arsenal of moves while attacking the rim.  One area the team needs to be concerned about when attacking the rim is the fact that the Knicks lead the leagues in blocks and block % (percentage of blocks per 100 possessions), but I think that if the Lakers are cognizant of where the help is coming from they can actually capitalize on the Knicks aggressiveness by making the extra pass to cutting big men.

But this game won’t really be about offense but rather which team can get the stops they need.  The Knicks finally have the pieces in place to run D’Antoni’s P&R heavy sets and the Lakers’ defense of this play will be severely tested on nearly every possession.  Raymond Felton has finally found his comfort level with this play, making the correct read more often, and setting up himself or his mates with quality looks all over the floor.  The key to all of this is obviously the roll work of Amar’e and his uncanny ability to catch the ball on the move while still finishing at the basket.  His ability means that the Knicks always have a paint threat that requires the three second are to be protected and puts teams in the unenviable position of having to help on the middle dive while also worrying about shooters on the wings.  That in a nutshell is how the Knicks (and the Suns) hurt you each night as defenses can’t be everywhere at once.

So the Lakers will need to make hard choices on each possession and work their tails off when rotating both to the paint and back out to shooters whenever the P&R is run.  Luckily the Lakers have good interior defenders (regardless of what you think about Gasol and Odom as rim protectors, their length his very helpful) and that will at least offer an obstacle or two for Amar’e to work around on his dives.  So where I’m most concerned is with the Lakers’ wings getting sucked into the paint and leaving shooters open in the short corner and when circling back to the top of the key.  This has been an issue all year (and in other years) so it’s something to look for tonight.

More than any other game since the Spurs game, this will be test for the Lakers.  The Knicks offer a unique style and are an explosive team that has a knack for closing out games and playing well on the road (11-7 away from the Garden).  This would be a quality win for the Lakers and would only add to the momentum they’ve been building in their current 3 game win streak.  So, here’s hoping the Lakers can take a page from their manual of beating the Suns and apply that to the Knicks tonight to make it 4 in a row.

Where you can watch: 6:30pm start time on Fox Sports West. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710am.

Darius Soriano

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54 responses to Preview and Chat: The New York Knickerbockers

  1. This one’s for Warren and for a speedy recovery for Matt Barnes.

  2. Ironic that those monster games were put up by power forwards playing against Mr. Amar’e “We’re not the Suns East. We play defense.” Stoudemire.

  3. Turnovers are really starting to drive me crazy.

  4. Too, cavalier with the basketball.

  5. Did Ron put his hands around that Knick player’s neck?! I hope that doesn’t get evaluated later. I like the fire, though.

    Nice effort by Bynum!

  6. Yeah, Drew with 4 “lucky” rebounds already.

  7. Phil looks a little more fired up than usual today.

  8. The Lakers have really calmed down after their early TO problems, but that really was a poor stretch to start the game. Made an early hole to climb out of. But the Lakers stayed patient and worked the interior to their advantage. The pace is now what the Lakers should want for the rest of the game.

  9. Matt Barnes come back quick. Luke Walton is killing me tonight.

  10. So far so good, Lakers are pretty good on defense after those TO. Amare can’t guard Bynum 1 on 1. Hence, Amare is 1-10 on FGs.

  11. Drew is playing like the guy we all talked about being a dominant center in years passed. Looks like he took Bill Walton’s words to heart. He is taking it to Amare and not giving an inch on defense, even with the quickness disparity. He’s moving laterally as well as I’ve seen since at least early last year, if not the year before.

  12. And then again, Bynum’s almost always had his way against Stoudemire, since 2008.

  13. Just started watching game 2 mins before half. Looks good so far holding Knicks too under 50 points, bad shooting by Amare(1-10) and Felton(2-7) me likes. Drew needs a new nickname if he continues to dominate in the post. The junkyard dog(Artest) is finally off his chain and roaming Staples, love to see Ron play with that edge that you never know what he might do next. On a team with such even keel playes, with the exception of Mr. Bean, a change of pace is good to light the flame under others.

  14. Almost forgot about the game, anyone have a link?

  15. This is the best defense the Lakers have played since the start of the season.

  16. I’m in hong kong in a meeting …. I would do anything to stop time here and get to a tv and watch a lakert game

  17. I’m sorry, but these refs are absolutely awful.

  18. Has there been a rule change that I’m unaware of? Is getting hit across the arms when taking a shot is no longer a foul?

  19. ANDREW!

  20. Joel – whatever. It’s just inconsistency. They gave Kobe a pair of cheap free throws the next trip down.

  21. This could be a nice end to the weekend with a win cause it looks like the Heat are gonna lose tonight against Portland.

  22. Rudy – Just be aware that the Heat no doubt have a load of FTs yet to shoot….!

  23. the lakers are not doubling and thus not leaving shooters wide open!! my prayers have been answered. thank god. Finally some pretty good defense.

  24. Dear Amare,
    No matter what you think, you really don’t want to get into it with Ron Artest.

  25. Simonoid, it not just the no calls on kobe. But phil must have told the refs he’s sending a tape of this game to the league offices in order to get that cheap call for kobe.

    But the lakers have to keep their composure. This game is far from over.

  26. AusPhil – You were right. I spoke to soon. Looks like the Blazers are gonna give this one away.

  27. Ok ya Joel. They suck. Just threw Bynum out.

  28. Wow, and Bynum didn’t even foul Amare.

  29. Rudy – Hopefully not. But when they sub out Mills (who’d had a blazing 4th quarter) for Andre Miller, who then misses the potential game-winner…

    On the Laker game, I could’ve done without Drew picking up his 4th so quickly this quarter (and without Kobe missing his 14th shot of the night too!).

    And as I post that, Drew gets tossed. This just got a little more interesting.

  30. These refs are scandalous.

  31. What the hec happened with Bynum?? That’s the last time I take a non-commercial restroom break.

  32. That was ridiculous @#$% right there! Horrible call by the ref and that second technical was really bad.

  33. Wow, and Bynum’s out like that?

  34. “Are you serious?” should not get you tossed on a second technical.

  35. I dont know what was more terrible, the 2nd technical call or the actual Bynum foul. TERRIBLE!

  36. wonder what Knickers is going to say after this game since his beloved Amare is putting up percentages worthy of Kobe.

  37. harold – no doubt he’ll let us know that the Lakers “PROTECTED HOME COURT” or some similar insight!

    Assuming that we keep executing the game plan and actually win this. I’d like to see Kobe working more inside than he is.

  38. Freaking Miami just doesnt lose anymore, its getting frustrating…

  39. lately other teams have been giving games away to the heat. the bucks had the game won, as did the blazers. hopefully it catches up to the heat and teams start finishing them off.

  40. Well, LeBJ ended up with a nice line…

    Apart from the ejection (which I would consider had rather mitigating circumstances given how dubious the calls were), I have loved what our 3 bigs have done today. Exactly the type of numbers that they should get against the Knicks.

  41. Lebron, Wade, Bosh – 96 points
    Rest of team – 11 points

  42. I dont like how the refs tried to take over this game. But I do like how LA showed poise and focus weathering the storm. The team has taken another step in the process of becoming a better team. I must say that I am impressed by the fight shown on defense.

  43. You know what Kobe has done really well this season? Cross court passing.

  44. Caracter always looks like he’s going to travel whenever he starts dribbling because he tends to shuffle his feet first.

  45. Damn can Luke run the offense or what? Great pass to Caracter there!

  46. The two main conclusions from this game:

    1. Matt Barnes being out doesn’t have to be as big a problem as one might fear, thanks in large part to Shannon Brown. With that said, no one would be happier than me to see Matt back sooner rather than later.

    2. Drew is a bona fide beast. We already pretty much know what we get from Kobe, Pau and nowadays LO – but Drew’s play has me salivating. Equally dominant on both ends, and already the second best center in the game today. If he keeps this up, I seriously think he can become the best player in the league. I know it might sound like hyperbole at this point, but I just love his game. Let’s hope he can stay healthy, knock on wood.

  47. I have to say that this was probably the best defense I’ve seen this year. It was solid almost all game (aside from parts of the 1st quarter) and was especially great with Drew on the floor.

  48. Like I said a couple weeks ago, Drew is looking even better than the first part of last season, when he was supposedly healthy. He’s the wild card in the team’s threepeat chances. The injury that he suffered when Kobe collided with his knee in Memphis two years ago not only was a torn MCL, but also a tiny tear of the meniscus. Coming back from that injury, he played the entire 2009 postseason with the same tiny meniscus tear, rehabbed some more over the summer, then played the entire 09-10 regular season with the same torn meniscus. He aggravated it in the first round against OKC.

    The surgeon last July 28 decided to repair the meniscus instead of removing the injured portion, resulting in a longer recovery time but hopefully a more stable knee. Looks like it’s working, as this is the most athletic Drew has looked since that two-week stretch in January 2009 when he was the most dominant offensive center in the league.

  49. The officiating didn’t favor either team tonight, but it sure was poor. This was just a clunker for those guys. Both sides seemed pretty disgusted in the non-calls that went down. I suspect that is why Drew gave the “Are you kidding?” comment that got him thrown out – another example of a poor decision by an official.

  50. Is it me or are the officials quick to the T for the lakers. Kobe got a t for waving hismhand, Ron got a t for chest bump (when stoudemire provoked the incident) and Bynum gets a double t for screamingnare you kidding me.

    I am just wondering when it’s gonna even out. From the way they judged techs in this game amare shoulda been thrown out as well, but he was assessed nothing.

    The celtics and Miami get away with crybaby murder almost every game, and ginobli’s mist famous face is the arms outstretched bewildered look that would get a the lakers every time.

    It might be because I watch too much lakers ball, but I watch a ton of other NBA games as well, and the refs let stuff fly for other teams that would have no chance with us.

    Eventually it’s gotta balance out but I was at that game tonight and the ref was looking away from the play (completely turned around) when he called the foul on Bynum, presumably because stoudemire missed. Was just frustrating, even with he win.

  51. I thought it was pretty one-sided in favor of the Knicks. Amare got credited for a few blocked shots on Kobe and Drew when he didn’t come close to even touching the ball, and our side got T’d up for similar protests to NY’s, who didn’t get T’d up. But I’ll take a 22-point win over the team that just blew out the Spurs any day.

  52. I agree with Craig. The refs’ suck-job didn’t favor either side tonight, but that seriously was one of the worst performances I can recall out of the zebras in quite some time. On some plays they let way too much go, and on others they were so over-reactive that they crossed the line in the opposite manner.

    Drew’s rejection was a complete joke — what happened to the days when you had to knock a ref over the scorer’s table to be tossed? (I miss Van Exel.)