A giant embrace. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
The city of L.A., aside from being named Highlights Magazine's "Sexiest City on Earth" in 2008, is known for its indigenous tribe of hostile giants. Even the Old English phrase "los angeles" roughly translates to "los post presence". The hometown Lakers boast several of these sizable natives. They'll start Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum in the frontcourt, and bring the gigantic Lamar Odom off the bench (and Ron Artest isn't exactly little). Rumor has it Mike D'Antoni will start Shawne Williams instead of Ronny Turiaf (or Toney Douglas, I suppose) this evening, which means you'll have the following front line match-ups:
Amar'e Stoudemire on Andrew Bynum
Wilson Chandler on Pau Gasol
Shawne Williams on Ron Artest
(Or something like that.) I suppose that could be shuffled somehow and there's still a possibility that D'Antoni backs down and starts Turiaf, but any way you slice it, the Knicks will be especially undersized against the Lakers. Barring an unprecedented spasm of glass-minding, New York will get badly out-rebounded, particularly on L.A.'s end of the floor. We've already seen good teams with big men (Miami, Orlando) decimate the Knicks on the offensive boards. The Lakers are the league's fifth-best o-bounders, and should pose a similar problem. How can the Knicks overcome that? A few potential strategies:
- Stack the defensive glass. It pretty much ices the fast break, but the guards can help out under the backboard. Landry Fields is an elite rebounding guard and Raymond Felton is coming off a ten-board game, isn't he? If the big folks concentrate on boxing out, not chasing the ball, then there might be rebounding opportunities for the backcourt bros. I'm not counting on it, but that's a possibility.
- Shoot a buttload of threes. This is one way to make sure the mismatching isn't a one-sided problem. L.A. defends the perimeter pretty well, but they're not used to facing a line-up with four outside gunnaz. When Gasol and Bynum are both on the floor, the Knicks should be able to find open shooters if they move the ball crisply. Neither of those guys will be dying to close out 20+ feet from the rim. Odom is more amenable to defending the perimeter when he's on the floor, but even still, a healthy dose of outside shooting could be New York's salvation. If they can't hit from range, it'll be far too easy for the Lakers to swarm Amar'e and make his life difficult.
- Force turnovers. They can't get easy buckets at the rim if they never GET to the rim, right!?
- Get the Lakers into foul trouble. If this advice is given to Stoudemire, I worry that he'll be prone to forced shots and turnovers. Either way, we hope he can draw some fouls and get to the line some. The guy who could really thrive with this goal in mind is Wilson Chandler. If Wil's playing the four against Gasol, his superior quickness means he should be able to attack the rim and draw some contact.
- If all else fails: Nunchucks.
Basically, the Knicks' (deliberate, it seems) lack of size is going to get exploited by the Lakers. Unless they exert an atypical effort in the paint, the Knicks will need to counter by exploiting L.A.'s lack of quickness and perimeter defense if they hope to steal a road win in the land of the giants.
As I am in a land without MSG and high-speed internet, our friend Gian will be taking care of you this evening. Until then, consider this a pre-game open thread. Also check out the opposing preview over at Silver Screen and Roll. <3.