After Jordan Clarkson and a skeleton crew led the Lakers to a much needed (and somewhat unexpected) win over the Pacers on Friday, the team is back in action vs. the Knicks for a Sunday matinee.
With a 12:30pm start time, this is one of those “the LA nightlife is undefeated” games but it remains to be seen if it will be the visiting or home team that feels this the most.
The Lakers are going to be shorthanded again in this one, down at least Lonzo Ball (knee) and potentially without Brandon Ingram (ankle) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (achilles) who are both listed as questionable. I know Friday’s game is proof the team can still win with these three out, but it goes without saying the odds decrease dramatically and it takes at least one special performance (like Clarkson’s) and several other guys stepping up to get there.
Be it Clarkson, Randle, Nance, Lopez, or Kuzma, at least one (and likely two) will need to carry the offensive burden this game, whether Ingram/KCP play or not. Lonzo being out means the team will be more reliant on these guys in general, but their responsibility to be playmakers and set the tone for the team increases without Ball there to play his normal role.
Caruso — who had a strong showing against Indy — will also be important, since his style skews closest to how Lonzo plays (outlets/throw-aheads, pushing the pace, pass first), but if you’re depending on your 3rd string PG to set the tone for your team, you’re probably going to be disappointed.
With that, this game really will come down to the team’s front line guys and whether they have enough to combat Kristaps Porzingis, Enes Kanter, and the cast of role players who flank them. Considering NY is in the middle of a 7 game road trip, it’s fair to ask whether they’ll have enough energy and focus, but this is the point in a trip where a team either finds their stride and pushes towards the close of the trip or starts to check-out and looking towards home. The Knicks are 4 games under .500 and 10th in the conference, so they cannot afford the latter. They visit the Warriors on Tuesday, so, if anything, they need to focus on games like this one and try to grab a W.
In saying all that, I expect this game to be competitive, if not a bit sloppy. Both teams coming off Friday night wins leads me to believe there may have been some fun Saturday nights in Los Angeles. Combine that with the early start and it’s a recipe for some Benny Hill music plays early on.
Once things settle, though, this will likely come down to whose frontcourt can control the game on both ends of the floor. Inherently, you would think this advantage lies with the Knicks and Porzingis, but the Lakers depth could just as easily win out here. Here’s to Lopez, Randle, Kuzma, and crew having a strong day.
Where you can watch: 12:30pm start on Spectrum Sportsnet.