Over the past week, New York experienced the height victory, enjoying consecutive wins over two tough Eastern Conference contenders, the Cavaliers and Celtics, before descending into misery with a loss to the Nets on ABC on Saturday. The basketball gods giveth, taketh, etc.
L.A. is on a road trip and coming off a loss on Saturday in Boston and one last night in Brooklyn. LeBron and Anthony Davis sat out of the latter game to be fully healthy for the bright lights at MSG. Muchas gracias, guys. Their squad plays at the league’s second-fastest pace and ranks 19th for offense and 18th for defense. They aren’t much threat from deep, rating 24th in three-point attempts and sinking only 34% of them. This bunch of ho-hummers sits thirteenth in the West for good reason.
It’s another TNT game, New York’s second in two weeks. Whoever scheduled this tilt must have done the math and crossed their fingers that LeBron would break Kareem’s scoring record at MSG. That would have made for great TV and given Shaq and Chuck plenty to crow about. The game should be watchable nonetheless, provided your mute button works. Showtime’s at 7:30 pm.
Jalen Brunson deserves a nap. As much as it would be sweet for him to make the All-Star team, what would be most beneficial to Jalen and the team is a long, restful break. He carries a heavy load for New York and has played in 48 of their 51 games. He logs 34.4 grueling minutes per outing, and two superlatives that best define his brand of basketball are brute and bruising. Drop him into a sensory deprivation tank, put on some White Lotus-esque chanting courtesy of Calm.com, and block Thibodeau’s number. The Knicks will depend on him throughout the second half of their campaign. The man needs to rest.
JB will clash with notorious anti-hero Patrick Beverley (6’1”, l80 lb.). The endlessly yakky PatBev has averaged 6.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.5 assists this season. Meh. Russell Westbrook (6’3”, 200 lb.) leads the second unit for L.A. Meh squared.
Quentin Grimes must be experiencing a sophomore slump of late. Over the last 10 games, his defensive rating was 125.3; his season average is 116.5. Take it with a grain of salt. QDot is often stuck on the other team’s best playmaker, and he’s had some doozies of late (Kyrie Irving, anyone?). He, like Brunson, would benefit from an extended snooze during the All-Star interlude.
The Lakers’ shooting guard tonight will be 10-year-man Dennis Schröder (6’3”, 172 lb.), who has averaged 12.3 points and 3.8 assists this season while shooting 34% from beyond the arc and taking 3.6 attempts. Geez, Beverley, Westbrick, and Schröder? The Lakers locker room must be a hoot of a hangout.
In his fifth NBA campaign, Troy Brown Jr. (6’6”, 215 lb.) is shooting 34% from deep on 3.2 attempts, both up from his career averages. He collects 6.7 points and 3.9 rebounds per affair. The 23-year-old will do-si-do with RJ Barrett, who has averaged 22.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.2 assists over his last five games.
LeBron James, averaging 30.2 points, 8.5 boards, and 7.1 dimes this season, has called MSG his favorite arena but hasn’t played there in three years. He’ll square off against Julius Randle, who leads the Knicks with 24.7 points, 10.8 rebounds, and four assists. LeBron is dealing with “really significant soreness” in his left foot which, according to NBA.com, will be checked this morning. Pardon my skepticism. LeBron has spent enough time in Hollywood to learn the craft of storytelling, and an injury adds dramatic depth to the storyline.
Anthony Davis (6’10”, 253 lb.) has averaged 26.7 points and 12 rebounds in 27 games. The 29-year-old is an eight-time All-Star, and he was named to the All-NBA First Team and the All-Defensive Team four times each. When he joined the Lakers, he promptly won the 2020 NBA championship. The next year, he appeared on the NBA 75th Anniversary Team, cementing his legendary status (did anyone say injury-prone?). Guarding him will be Jericho Sims, a sophomore stud who has satisfactorily filled in for injured starter Mitchell Robinson but will have a mighty challenge tonight.
Prediction? The TNT talking heads will dump on the Knicks. As for the game . . . Espn.com favors the Knicks 76% to 24%, which seems high considering that two future Hall-of-Famers will be suiting up for the other team. Tonight’s match-up might be decided by the Knicks’ bench, which is the league’s sixth-best according to NBA.com. An immaculate effort from Immanuel Quickley puts New York back in the win column. Knicks +5.
Dolan’s Place. Manhattan, NYC. 7:30 p.m. EST. Go Knicks!