New York at L.A. Lakers
Time: 9:30 PM CST (NBA TV)
Spread: LAL -13
Odds c/o 5dimes
The New York Knicks are the second-worst team in the Eastern Conference at just 10-26. The Knicks have gone 5-14 on the road where it faces the Los Angeles Lakers in the second half of an NBA TV doubleheader. The Knicks are 13-point underdogs and the betting total is set at 221.5 points according to NBA oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes.
NEW YORK NEWS & NOTES:
The New York Knicks have lost its last two, and five of its last eight overall. The Knicks have already fired its head coach David Fitzdale, but it is hard to find any real reasons to blame him for the Knicks’ lack of roster-balance nor its lack of success. There have been a few silver linings but not many for a team that had so much money to spend on a free agency period it mostly whiffed on. No stars chose the Knicks, and instead a large contract was given to Julius Randle.
While Randle has played well for his part, the Knicks were hoping for Kevin Durant or one of the other megastars. Marcus Morris Sr. has also thrived in the offensive vacuum of New York. He is having his best career season, averaging 19.1 points per game and posting a PER of 17.42. However, outside of Mitchell Robinson who plays just 22 minutes a night, this is New York’s highest Player Efficiency Rating.
Randle is averaging 18.6 points and 9.1 rebounds, but his defense has continued to draw criticism throughout his entire career. The Knicks have been fairly pleased with the progress of rookie RJ Barrett. The former Duke Blue Devil is No. 3 on the team in scoring at 13.7 points per game, while adding 5.2 boards and 2.6 assists per game, as well. He has the potential to be a big-time player, but it is not yet clear whether he has “Cornerstone” potential.
Robinson was expected to make a leap to that, but he really never did and has made precious little progress over his impressive rookie season last year. Bobby Portis is a model of inconsistency, but at times he looks as though he has figured it all out and is ready to take the next steps in his career— before he utterly vanishes and proceeds to lay bricks.
None of it makes sense, but that has become something of a mantra for describing the Knicks’ franchise. Career seldom blossom in New York, and with a roster so deficient in playmakers it is not hard to see why the Knicks have struggled so bad, averaging just 104.7 points per game. The Knicks average only 21.1 assists per game, and Elfrid Payton—the team’s best passer—has not been healthy for most of this season. Frank Ntilikina is still figuring things out and he is not a good scoring threat. He averages under six points per game despite 22.6 minutes per contest. There is just not a lot of hope that this Knicks team turns it around any time soon, especially since no free agents really seemed interested in donning Knicks threads, instead opting for the Brooklyn Nets (both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, that is).
LAL NEWS & NOTES:
The Los Angeles Lakers are now 29-7. It is currently seated atop the Western Conference with a four-game lead over the No. 2 seeded Denver Nuggets.
It appears the gamble to wager so much young talent to obtain Anthony Davis has paid off thus far. Davis leads the team in scoring, providing a powerful punch that LeBron James has done little more than feast from.
The Lakers rank No. 8 in the Association in scoring at 112.6 points per game while possessing a defense that limits teams to just 105.3 (+7.3 point differential). The Lakers also rank No. 7 in the league in assists per game as a team, tallying an impressive 26.1 per game.
James, of course, ranks highest in the assist category, even with the dime-dropping Rajon Rondo coming in to play alongside him. James is averaging 10.9 assists per game, to go with his 25.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks/steals per game. Davis is leading the way with 27.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists while coming up with 1.4 steals and 2.5 blocks per contest.
The missing thing, if anything, has been the Kyle Kuzma that Los Angeles is used to seeing. Kuzma has played 25 games this season since returning from injury, but he has only started one of those. He averages just 23.8 minutes per game, and his shooting percentages are mediocre at 42 percent field goals and 35 percent triples. Kuzma averages the third-most of any Laker at 12.2 per game, but he really should be over at least 15 points per game. Avery Bradley is the No. 6 scorer at only eight points per game, though Bradley is known to be a defensive pest and that is his primary focus while on the court.
Kuzma, meanwhile, is known to be a shooter but not really excelling in that lone aspect of his offense. Rondo, as mentioned, comes off the bench to play 21 minutes a game, picking up nearly six assists in those limited minutes. The biggest pleasant surprise has undoubtedly been Dwight Howard. While his numbers are far from eye-popping, he has embraced the role of a defensive-minded presence whose job is to protect the rim and grab boards. Howard has averaged just under 20 minutes a game, providing just under seven points, seven rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. He has rotated well on defense, communicated, and been something of a second-unit leader. The Lakers are pleased with their low-risk investment in Howard, which drew more than its fair share of criticism even though the Lakers were not contractually bound to the former three-time Defensive Player of the Year.
To be sure, he is not the “same guy” that averaged over 21 points per game for the Orlando Magic. That All-Star form is firmly in the past, but Howard’s defensive energy is partly responsible for the Lakers’ overall turnaround as a team on the defensive end. Davis is, naturally, an even bigger part of this picture, but the Lakers were expected to be a slow team on defense, and that has been nowhere close to true, even with Davis often playing the 4-spot.
In fact, so many things have fallen into place that other than getting better play out of its No. 3 scorer in Kuzma, it is hard to find any other areas of overt weakness in the Lakers approach thus far in 2019-20