The Lakers continue their East Coast road trip in New York City on Tuesday night on ESPN. The Knicks are small home favorites at Madison Square Garden.
Los Angeles has started its current four-game trip 2–0 with wins over Philadelphia and then Charlotte. The Lakers got 22 off the bench from Jordan Clarkson and the ninth double-double of the season from Kyle Kuzma in the win over the weekend. They finish with Cleveland on Thursday after this game tonight.
The Knicks, meanwhile, were the first of the Chicago Bulls’ three consecutive victims when they lost by a bucket at the United Center last week. New York came back to beat Atlanta by two at the Garden with a big game from Kristaps Porzingis and Doug McDermott off the bench.
The Lakers seem to be improving but I’ve also had a tough time picking their games this season. Brandon Ingram has made strides as a scorer but the next step is doing the same as a playmaker; he’s still turning it over too much and missing open guys on drives to the basket. He’ll draw a favorable matchup against Lance Thomas with Tim Hardaway Jr. on the shelf. Larry Nance Jr. will defend Porzingis, at least initially. Luke Walton could also slide Brook Lopez over there or Kuzma, when he is in the game.
So the Knicks have some options to throw at Porzingis, who is being asked to more than ever for the Knicks without Hardaway in the lineup. It’s an ominous diagnosis for the Knicks’ swingman, who hasn’t played this month. Some estimates said he would miss two weeks, which would have him back now. Other reports mentioned months. The latest piece of information the Knicks have released said he is to be reevaluated in a week from now. It’s a delicate matter because they want his shin to be pain-free before he starts pounding it again but the longer he is out, the more weight falls on Porzingis, who is not an iron man himself. Limiting the wear and tear on Porzingis without Hardaway active is the best long-term course of action but how long will the fans tolerate that with the Knicks sliding down the standings. Then again, get aggressive with either KP or Hardaway and it could only get worse. It just doesn’t feel like the Knicks have enough right now.
I’m playing the Lakers in this game because I think they’re the better team. They have bodies to throw at Porzingis and better athletes on the perimeter. Jarrett Jack won’t exploit, nor intimidate, Lonzo Ball. In fact, the rookie might be able to use his speed to bother Jack. I like LA straight up and I like it even more with three plus the hook.
Free Pick: Los Angeles +3.5