Well, they might be about to collide with their worst possible opponent on Monday, on the second game they’ll play inside the Cryptodome as they pay a visit to In-Season Tournament Champions the Los Angeles Lakers (15-11).
Allow me to bring back a paragraph from the game recap we dropped on Sunday.
Since limiting the Toronto Raptors to 106 points on Dec. 1, New York has given up 146, 133, 130, 117, 122, and yesterday 144 points to their rivals. That’s 792 total points against in six games for an average of 132 per contest.
Now, speaking of the beloved IST and the Lakers, check out what they did in the title-clinching game against the Indiana Pacers.
Those two purple dots you set at the top-right corner of the chart are the Lakers' only 3-point shots made in that game. They are also two of only four shots made by LA outside of the paint.
The Lakers defeated the Pacers 123-109 on their way to hoisting the NBA Cup. They trounced Indy in the paint, 86-44. Not even allowing the Pacers to outscore them 30-6 from beyond the 3-point arc helped Indiana make up for that.
It took Los Angeles 36 minutes to make their first long-range shot. The Lakers outrebounded the Pacers 55-32. They won both the defensive and offensive board battles, 43-23 and 12-9 respectively.
A certain someone is missing in the Knicks rotation, in case you've not been paying attention. Name reads Mitchell, surname Robinson.
“I think we miss Mitch, that’s the first thing,” Barrett said after Saturday’s defeat against the Clips.
A couple of days ago, Ivica Zubac scored 13 points in the first quarter. He ate Knicks starting center Jericho Sims alive. Got him in foul trouble quickly. Forced Thibs to limit Young Hercules to a meager 18 minutes.
Anthony Davis dumped 41 points on the Pacers and pulled down 20 rebounds (five offensive) against them. New York better not miss studying that boxscore even though IST stats are vanished from history.
In the games Mitch has missed since he went down injured, the Knicks’ opponents have given up 54 points in the paint per game allowing a 52%+ shooting percentage inside the colored hardwood.
“I think right now you can see how much [Robinson] cleans up for us,” Barrett added. “Just how much his presence—he cleans up the mistakes that we make. Just grabs all the rebounds. That’s a huge part of the defense.”
Tom Thibodeau touched on his poor team’s D, which should be the calling card of a franchise under his guidance, saying “Right now, no one’s playing great defense. We’ve got to fix that as a group.”
Backup center Isaiah Hartenstein, who has remained within the bench mob to preserve the usual and already-known flow of the rotation, per Thibs, also discussed these problems following Saturday’s 144-points-allowed outing.
“I feel like we’re getting to the point where the urgency for defense has to get higher,” Hartenstein said.
The main problem? Not one in particular, Thibodeau thinks. “A compilation. We’ve got to figure out that we have to adjust,” he explained. “The game was being called tight, and we got frustrated with that. And we can’t let that get us sidetracked.”
According to Julius Randle, “A lot [has to change], obviously, for us to be consistent on that end. We’ll take a look at the film and keep looking at it.
“[Without Robinson] it’s a struggle, obviously. We wish we had him out there because he makes up for a lot of the stuff. But we’ve been struggling in that area for a while.”
Knicks D vs. Lakers O. Tip-off at 10:30 pm. Don’t miss it (if you can afford to go to work tomorrow with two hours in your sleep count). Only one more game before we return to reasonable scheduling times.