The Lakers extended their winning streak to 6 games on Tuesday, demolishing the woebegone Knicks by 30 points. The 117-87 score is exactly what this game was and offered a 1-game reprieve from the Lakers getting a big lead only to squander it like I do my bankroll at a cold craps table.
The Lakers are now 30-7 on the season, 1st in the West with a 4.5 game lead over the 2nd place Nuggets. This cushion will be needed, particularly because while the Lakers won a game, they lost Anthony Davis to injury what could be a couple of games — if not longer.1Reports say that Davis has a bruised muscle in his lower back/butt, but original fears were a bone bruise. Because it’s just a muscle bruise, he will travel with the team, but I expect a certain amount of caution even if the trend with this team is to play through ailments. In an attempt to block a Julius Randle layup, Davis got knocked off-balance in mid-air and crashed down to the hardwood directly on his back. Davis did not return the rest of the game and was physically struggling when leaving the arena.
Fact is, though, the Lakers didn’t need AD for the rest of this game. The Knicks were that bad and the Lakers were that good. You don’t win by 30 points on accident.
The biggest reason for the win was, as has been the case a lot this year, LeBron James. The Knicks guarded LeBron as if the reports of his pregame illness meant they might actually get whatever bug he had, sagging off him to the point that they might has well been trying to defend him from the old Forum in Inglewood. Or maybe they only had a single game-plan for all the Lakers point guards and they cribbed Rondo’s scouting report to develop their strategy. Or, maybe they mistook LeBron for another Klutch client and believed they were actually defending Ben Simmons.
Whatever the reason, though, the Knicks decided they were not going to respect LeBron’s jumper and like Julia Roberts walking into a Beverly Hills boutique to flaunt her purchases at another store would say…big mistake. Big. HUGE. LeBron hit 6 of his 12 attempts from downtown, two more than the Knicks hit as a team. Those buckets fueled LeBron’s 31 points, a point total he rounded off with 5 rebounds and 5 assists for good measure.
With LeBron rolling, the Knicks really had no answers and, honestly, that was that. We could say more here, but why? Instead, lets get to some notes…
- The Knicks are known to be a physical team that will try to rough you up and play with an edge, but this game got a bit out of hand. Bobby Portis got ejected for a truly terrible play in transition where he swung wildly for a block(?) on a KCP layup but instead hit him in the head pretty violently. On a play where JaVale McGee was gearing up for a dunk, Reggie Bullock hogtied him around the shoulders and flung him to the ground for a flagrant-1 foul. The Lakers played through most of the other chippiness all night, but there was a lot of holding and grabbing and extra put onto fouls by New York in this one.
- Speaking of KCP, he was examined for a concussion after the hit by Portis, but the results were negative. KCP came back and played later in the game and did well, too. Overall he hit 5 of his 7 shots overall and 3-4 from distance.
- After a really rough month of December, Danny Green has been playing better in the new year and that included this game. 4-8 overall and 2-4 from three for 11 points. Green also had 5 rebounds and 3 assists, both good numbers for a guy who typically doesn’t stuff the boxscore in this way. The Lakers need Green’s shooting to be at their best and it’s no coincidence they won by such a large margin when both Green and KCP had it going from deep.
- Speaking of 3’s and, as noted earlier, the physicality the Knicks played with, in my game preview I wrote that, “If the Lakers can get to the line, hit their FT’s, and if just one or two of their 3-point shooters hit shots, this game can get out of hand and in a hurry.” Well, the Lakers took 21 FT’s and made 18 of them while also knocking down 17 of their 36 attempts from behind the arc (47.2%) and won by 30 points.
- I thought this was a good game from Rondo and much better than the level he’s played at over the last couple of weeks (at least). He played with way more effort, was decisive in pushing the pace, and did not hold the ball as much as he typically does. If Rondo is going to be an on-court contributor, this is the template. I have my doubts this is a level he can play to against good teams or even on most nights (more on that tomorrow at Silver Screen and Roll), but on this night it was good to see.
- Dwight Howard was excellent this game. 8 points on 3-3 shooting, 13 rebounds, and 5 blocks from the backup big man. He played with energy on both ends of the floor and was his normal cheerful presence on the bench celebrating his teammates. He also did this:
- It’s to be somewhat expected in a game you win by 30, but not a single player had a negative plus-minus in the boxscore this game. Not even in garbage time was any Lakers player get outscored while he was on the floor. Again, this happens in really decisive wins by big margins, but you love to see it anyway.
That’s it for this one, ya’ll. Have a good one.